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This is fantastic - the criticism of Bennett's Philosophical Guide to Conditionals arguments against the simple theory seems definitely right. I have a couple of reasons for thinking these truth-conditions aren't quite right as they stand. One seems easy to fix, the other may be more of a problem. The first is that I think some counterfactuals with nomologically possible antecedents are categorical - that is, require that all A-worlds are C-worlds. (I argue briefly for this here.) But even if that's right, provision can be made for it easily (at the cost of a tiny bit of complexity), and the simple theory can be taken to govern non-categorical cases. The second worry is about cases where the most relevantly similar A-worlds may be nomologically impossible, even though there there are nomologically possible A-worlds; counterfactuals where the similarity relation is resolved in a way which counts certain things as more important than sameness of law. (I don't think there's any reason to think our relevant-A-world(s)-determining-practices for counterfactuals inherently, i.e. by their very nature, hold laws fixed, even when there are legal A-worlds.) Such a case might be: If Einstein had been wrong in paper N, this light would not have bent. (Suppose Einstein in the actual world stated a law in paper N which actually holds, and which predicted the bending of the light.) It seems we can naturally understand this as holding fixed what Einstein wrote in N, and having a chance at being true, since the relevant worlds at which what Einstein actually wrote is false would be counterlegal. But this counterfactual still falls within the intended scope of the simple theory, since there are legal A worlds, namely ones where Einstein wrote something different in paper N. But they are not similar enough in the contextually relevant respect of what Einstein actually wrote. Do you think there might be a problem here? (If there is one, it could perhaps be avoided by more carefully and narrowly delineating the indented scope of the theory.) - Tristan Haze
Toggle Commented Jul 24, 2013 on The Simple Theory of Counterfactuals at
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Jul 23, 2013