Counterfactual Probability

Journal of Philosophy 120 (11):581-614 (2023)
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Stalnaker's Thesis about indicative conditionals is, roughly, that the probability one ought to assign to an indicative conditional equals the probability that one ought to assign to its consequent conditional on its antecedent. The thesis seems right. If you draw a card from a standard 52-card deck, how confident are you that the card is a diamond if it's a red card? To answer this, you calculate the proportion of red cards that are diamonds -- that is, you calculate the probability of drawing a diamond conditional on drawing a red card. Skyrms' Thesis about counterfactual conditionals is, roughly, that the probability that one ought to assign to a counterfactual equals one's rational expectation of the chance, at a relevant past time, of its consequent conditional on its antecedent. This thesis also seems right. If you decide not to enter a 100-ticket lottery, how confident are you that you would have won had you bought a ticket? To answer this, you calculate the prior chance--that is, the chance just before your decision not to buy a ticket---of winning conditional on entering the lottery. The central project of this article is to develop a new uniform theory of conditionals that allows us to derive a version of Skyrms' Thesis from a version of Stalnaker's Thesis, together with a chance-deference norm relating rational credence to beliefs about objective chance.

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Ginger Schultheis
University of Chicago

Citations of this work

Causal Decision Theory, Context, and Determinism.Calum McNamara - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
If P, Then P!Matthew Mandelkern - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (12):645-679.
Remarks on Ángel Pinillos’s Why We Doubt.Branden Fitelson - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-9.

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References found in this work

Humean Supervenience Debugged.David Lewis - 1994 - Mind 103 (412):473--490.
Common ground.Robert Stalnaker - 2002 - Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6):701-721.
Indicative conditionals.Robert Stalnaker - 1975 - Philosophia 5 (3):269-286.
Evidence: A Guide for the Uncertain.Kevin Dorst - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):586-632.

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