Counterfactuals as diverse claims about how things are
Katie Steele (ANU)

October 6, 2017, 11:00am - 1:00pm
Melbourne Logic Seminar, The University of Melbourne

Old Quad
Parkville 3010


Shawn Standefer
University of Melbourne

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Katie Steele (ANU) will present "Counterfactuals as diverse claims about how things are" at 11 in Old Quad G10.

AbstractIn this paper, we develop a novel response to counterfactual scepticism, the thesis that most counterfactual claims (those without explicit probabilities in the consequent) are false. The sceptical position is important because it appears to follow from the truth of counterfactuals being tied to scientific laws. We do not disagree with this basic position, but argue that science views the world at various levels or grains of resolution. Moreover, many scientific ‘laws’ include an implicit ceteris paribus clause that licences the exclusion of interferences or accidents relative to that level or grain of analysis. It follows, or so we argue, that many counterfactual utterances can be interpreted as true, even if some nearby counterfactual (interpreted at a different level) is false. Our account sheds light on debates concerning the semantics and logic of counterfactuals, and the question of laws in the special sciences. This is joint work with Alex Sandgren (ANU).

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