PhilSci Archive

New Probabilistic Account of Counterfactuals

Loewer, Barry (2023) New Probabilistic Account of Counterfactuals. [Preprint]

[img] Text
A New Probabilistic Account of CounterfactualsFinalJan13.docx

Download (332kB)


Counterfactuals and subjunctive conditionals are enormously important in philosophy, especially in philosophy of science. They are crucial to accounts of laws, causation, dispositions, probability, measurement, knowledge, reliability, decision, the direction of time and much else. In view of this it is surprising that it wasn’t until mid-20th century that serious proposals for the logic, semantics, and analyses of counterfactuals began to appear. The subsequent literature is vast with many proposals, counter examples to proposals, and replies. The most prominent account is David Lewis’ analysis of counterfactuals in terms of possible world similarity. This paper focuses on that account and the problems that it and related approaches based on similarity among possible worlds encounter and offers a new theory that solves those problems by replacing similarity with objective probability. The new account bases counterfactuals on statistical mechanics and thus answers Lewis’ question of how the temporal asymmetry of counterfactuals is related to the second law of thermodynamics. By doing this it accounts for the temporal asymmetry of causal counterfactuals and shows how counterfactuals explain why we can influence the future but not the past and why we can know much more about the past than about the future. The account construes statistical mechanical probabilities in terms of Lewis’ BSA of objective probabilities and laws and thus integrates counterfactuals into that account. By doing this it shows how counterfactuals together with laws and objective probabilities supervene on the distribution of fundamental properties in space-time (the Humean Mosaic).

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Keywords: counterfactuals, David Lewis, conditional probabilities, Mentaculus, statistical mechanics, Alan Hajek
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Determinism/Indeterminism
Depositing User: Unnamed user with email
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2024 23:00
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2024 23:00
Item ID: 22971
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Determinism/Indeterminism
Date: 2023

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item