Omission impossible

Philosophical Studies 173 (10):2575-2589 (2016)
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Abstract

This paper gives a framework for understanding causal counterpossibles, counterfactuals imbued with causal content whose antecedents appeal to metaphysically impossible worlds. Such statements are generated by omissive causal claims that appeal to metaphysically impossible events, such as “If the mathematician had not failed to prove that 2+2=5, the math textbooks would not have remained intact.” After providing an account of impossible omissions, the paper argues for three claims: (i) impossible omissions play a causal role in the actual world, (ii) causal counterpossibles have broad applications in philosophy, and (iii) the truth of causal counterpossibles provides evidence for the nonvacuity of counterpossibles more generally.

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Sara Bernstein
University of Notre Dame

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