Counterfactuals, causation, and preemption

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A counterfactual is a conditional statement in the subjunctive mood. For example: If Suzy hadn’t thrown the rock, then the bottle wouldn’t have shattered. The philosophical importance of counterfactuals stems from the fact that they seem to be closely connected to the concept of causation. Thus it seems that the truth of the above conditional is just what is required for Suzy’s throw to count as a cause of the bottle’s shattering. If philosophers were reluctant to exploit this idea prior to 1970, it was because of a widespread feeling that the truth-conditions of the counterfactual conditional were not sufficiently well understood. The development of a formal semantics for counterfactuals by Robert Stalnaker [1968] and David Lewis [1973b] stands as a major recent achievement in philosophical logic.
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Archival date: 2013-01-04
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