Counterfactual Logic and the Necessity of Mathematics


This paper is concerned with counterfactual logic and its implications for the modal status of mathematical claims. It is most directly a response to an ambitious program by Yli-Vakkuri and Hawthorne (2018), who seek to establish that mathematics is committed to its own necessity. I claim that their argument fails to establish this result for two reasons. First, their assumptions force our hand on a controversial debate within counterfactual logic. In particular, they license counterfactual strengthening— the inference from ‘If A were true then C would be true’ to ‘If A and B were true then C would be true’—which many reject. Second, the system they develop is provably equivalent to appending Deduction Theorem to a T modal logic. It is unsurprising that the combination of Deduction Theorem with T results in necessitation; indeed, it is precisely for this reason that many logicians reject Deduction Theorem in modal contexts. If Deduction Theorem is unacceptable for modal logic, it cannot be assumed to derive the necessity of mathematics

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Samuel Elgin
University of California, San Diego


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