How Strong is a Counterfactual?

Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Abstract
There are two leading theories about the meaning of counterfactuals, the Variably Strict Analysis (VSA) and the Strict Analysis (SA). Perhaps most famously, VSA and SA disagree about a principle known as Antecedent Strengtheing: SA validates the principle; VSA does not. Early VSA theorists believed that certain apparent counterexamples to Antecedent Strengthening— now known as Sobel Sequences—refuted SA. More recently, defenders of SA have enriched SA with certain dynamic principles governing how context evolves and argued that Sobel sequences are not counterexamples to the resulting Dynamic SA. But Antecedent Strengthening is just one of a family of strengthening principles. In this paper, we focus on a weaker principle, which we call Strengthening with a Possibility, and give a counterexample to it. We show that the dynamic features attributed to would-counterfactuals and might-counterfactuals by proponents Dynamic SA are of no help when it comes to counterexamples to Strengthening with a Possibility, unlike counterexamples to Antecedent Strengthening itself. We develop a new version of VSA that incorporates a Kratzerian ordering source into the meaning of counterfactuals, and we show how to model counterexamples to Strengthening with a Possibility on our account.
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Archival date: 2019-10-16
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