An Informational Theory of Counterfactuals

Acta Analytica 33 (4):525-538 (2018)
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Backtracking counterfactuals are problem cases for the standard, similarity based, theories of counterfactuals e.g., Lewis. These theories usually need to employ extra-assumptions to deal with those cases. Hiddleston, 632–657, 2005) proposes a causal theory of counterfactuals that, supposedly, deals well with backtracking. The main advantage of the causal theory is that it provides a unified account for backtracking and non-backtracking counterfactuals. In this paper, I present a backtracking counterfactual that is a problem case for Hiddleston’s account. Then I propose an informational theory of counterfactuals, which deals well with this problem case while maintaining the main advantage of Hiddleston’s account. In addition, the informational theory offers a general theory of backtracking that provides clues for the semantics and epistemology of counterfactuals. I propose that backtracking is reasonable when the state of affairs expressed in the antecedent of a counterfactual transmits less information about an event in the past than the actual state of affairs.
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Causation, Prediction, and Search.Spirtes, Peter; Glymour, Clark & Scheines, Richard
Causation.Lewis, David

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