Causal Counterfactuals and Impossible Worlds

In Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock & Huw Price (eds.), Making a Difference. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 14-32 (2017)
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A standing challenge in the theory of counterfactuals is to solve the “deviation problem”.  Consider ordinary counterfactuals involving an antecedent concerning a difference from the actual course of events at a particular time, and a consequent concerning, at least in part, what happens at a later time.  In the possible worlds framework, the problem is often put in terms of which are the relevant antecedent worlds. Desiderata for the solution include that the relevant antecedent worlds be governed by the actual laws of nature with no miracles; that the past in those worlds before the antecedent time matches the actual past; that the account is compatible with determinism, and that many of our ordinary counterfactual judgments are correct, and would be correct even given determinism. Many theorists have compromised on one or more of these desiderata, but this paper presents an account employing impossible worlds that satisfies them all.

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Daniel Nolan
University of Notre Dame


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