Does Chance Undermine Would?

Mind (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Counterfactual skepticism holds that most ordinary counterfactuals are false. The main argument for this view appeals to a ‘chance undermines would’ principle: if ψ would have some chance of not obtaining had φ obtained, then φ []–> ψ is false. This principle seems to follow from two fairly weak principles, viz., that ‘chance ensures could’ and that φ []–> ψ and φ <>–> ψ clash. Despite their initial plausibility, I show that these principles are independently problematic: given some modest closure principles, they entail absurdities. Moreover, on the most promising strategy for saving these principles, they do not, in the relevant sense, entail the chance-undermines-would principle. Instead, they entail a principle that only supports counterfactual indeterminism, the view that most ordinary counterfactuals are chancy, i.e., not settled true. I demonstrate this by developing an indeterminist semantics that vindicates the clash and chance-ensures-could principles but not the chance-undermines-would principle. This view, I argue, offers a better account of our credal and linguistic judgments than counterfactual skepticism.
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First archival date: 2021-09-02
Latest version: 3 (2021-10-15)
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2021-09-02

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