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Tristan Haze
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I've turned this into a post: http://sprachlogik.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-problem-for-simple-theory-of.html
Toggle Commented Jul 31, 2013 on The Simple Theory of Counterfactuals at Tomkow.com
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Hi Terrance, Thanks for the response. I will try to clarify both points. 'I agree that there are some counterfactual statements that require that all the A-worlds be C worlds. That is my analysis of "would have to be" (A>>C) counterfactuals. Perhaps you believe there is a class of counterfactuals which deserve this A>>C analysis but which cannot be heard as synonymous with any "would have to" claim? Do you have examples?' I don't think this succeeds in avoiding the counterexample. That a counterfactual with a legal antecedent of this sort can be paraphrased as a 'would have to be' conditional, and that you have another analysis for those, doesn't change the fact that it still falls under the scope of the Simple Theory as stated here, and that that theory seems to assign the wrong meaning. It should be easy to fix this by restricting the scope of the theory. A similar point applies regarding my second counterexample (which you call (H)) as you construe it. But I intended it somewhat differently (which I wasn't clear about). The idea was roughly this (it's inspired by my cartoon understanding of the confirmation of relativity, but let's just treat it as a fiction): Einstein asserted a law in paper N which actually holds, and which, together with the facts of some experimental setup E, predicts that some light will bend. Now, it seems to me we can evaluate counterfactuals where the relevant closest A-worlds are worlds where the law doesn't hold, for example ones with the antecedent '~L' (where L is the law in question). As you say, 'we do need an account of counterfactuals with contra-legal anteced[e]nts'. So far, no problem for the Simple Theory. But my idea is that there are counterfactuals whose antecedents are legal, but where the similarity relation is contextually understood in such a way that the closest relevant A-worlds are counter-legal. The idea was that with (H), both what Einstein wrote and the experimental setup was supposed to be held fixed (i.e. match in these respects required for close similarity), but not the actual laws of nature. For a given counterfactual and contextual understanding of it, call the 'focus set' the set of A-worlds at which C is required, by the counterfactual, to be true. (This of course assumes that a theory with broadly Lewisian/strict-implication outlines is basically right.) The special property this example was designed to have is thus: having a legal antecedent, yet being legitimately and naturally understandable such that its focus set contains counter-legal worlds. If there are counterfactuals with that property, that's a problem for the Simple Theory as stated, since is says that 'A > C iff C is true at the legal [my emphasis] A-worlds that most resemble a at TA'. Their having legal antecedents puts them in the scope of your theory as stated, but the presence of counter-legal worlds in their focus sets (on the relevant understandings of them) conflicts with it.
Toggle Commented Jul 31, 2013 on The Simple Theory of Counterfactuals at Tomkow.com
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