Philosophy Lexicon of Arguments

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Counterfactual conditional: the counterfactual conditional is equivalent to unreal conditional sentences. Conditionals, in which a fact is mentioned in the antecedent, which is not the case. If A were the case, B would have been the case. Counterfactual conditionals are needed because of the indeterminacy of pointing. One cannot unequivocally single out a certain element of a situation. The counterfactual conditional tells us which element would have had to be different in order for a process under examination to have a different outcome.

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Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

 
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I 112
Counterfactual Conditional/Axioms/Necessity Conditional/Possibility Conditional/Bigelow/Pargetter: (would > would, would > could).
1. The axioms of the normal conditionals are not considered for counterfactual conditionals.
E.g.
If van Gogh had not painted the sunflowers, someone else would have done it.
On the other hand, indicative
If van Gogh has not painted the sunflowers, someone else has done it.
The first sentence is false, the second true.
So they must differ in meaning.
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I 113
Possibilia/Counterfactual Conditional/Bigelow/Pargetter: Counterfactual conditionals often require that we consider Possibilia, even if we know that they are not actual.
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I 250
Stock: "backtracking". Pro Bigelow/Pargetter, Pollock (1976): In the case of counterfactual conditionals, no possible worlds may be included in which exceptions to natural laws are allowed - Vs: Lewis (1973a), Jackson (1977a), Stalnaker
Accessibility/Laws of Nature/Possible Worlds/backtraining/Bigelow/Pargetter: There are still compelling counter-examples to the theory that there is no accessible possible world in which natural laws are violated.
Counterfactual conditional: there are many counterfactual conditionals whose truth seems to presuppose the existence of such a possible world.
Counterlegals: counterfactual conditionals which determine what the case would be if certain laws did not apply. Problem: our theory says that there is no such world.
Definition backtracking/Lewis: we imagine a hypothetical change of an event at a certain time, and then we describe how the preceding events should have been so that the hypothetical event could have happened. ((s) To make a miracle superfluous)
Bigelow/Pargetter: this is not a problem for our theory.
Problem/Bigelow/Pargetter: not all counterfactual conditionals are backtrackers. Often we do not consider, how the past must have been,...
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I 251
...but assume that it is fixed. Instead, we ask ourselves how the future consequences of the changed event would look like. This is a forward-tracking.
Forward-tracking:
Problem/Bigelow/Pargetter: if we are considering a different future with the same past, we must assume that it is possible to violate the laws of nature.
Lewis: then we need "little miracles".
E.g. You might say that if there was a drink in front of you, you would drink it. But how could it get there? In many ways. But which is the one which corresponds to the most accessible possible world? If you had brought the drink yourself, you would have drunk it in the kitchen. So the above sentence would not be true. Nevertheless, there could have been a drink in front of you.
N.B.: so we must assume here that the past would have been the same. So we must assume magic!
Problem: a world in which the past would have been the same so far, and suddenly the glass was there - that would be a world in which natural laws are violated. How can such a world be accessible?
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I 252
Counterfactual conditional: seems that it cannot be true (nontrivial) if we are dealing with normal counterfactual conditionals that are not backtracking.
BigelowVsVs: the solution is based on a distinction between counterfactual conditionals in fundamental and everyday-language ones.
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I 254
Forward-tracking/Counterfactual conditional/Bigelow/Pargetter: must be irritated: if it were possible, then if it were like this, then ... - forward-tracking: past remains the same - event changes ("little miracle") - at that moment violation of the natural laws (Heimson world) - afterwards again regular course.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.

Big I
J. Bigelow, R. Pargetter
Science and Necessity Cambridge 1990


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2017-10-18