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The Myth of the Categorical Counterfactual

David Barnett
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Vol. 144, No. 2 (May, 2009), pp. 281-296
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27734444
Page Count: 16
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The Myth of the Categorical Counterfactual
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Abstract

I aim to show that standard theories of counterfactuals are mistaken, not in detail, but in principle, and I aim to say what form a tenable theory must take. Standard theories entail a categorical interpretation of counterfactuals, on which to state that, if it were that A, it would be that C is to state something, not relative to any supposition or hypothesis, but categorically. On the rival suppositional interpretation, to state that, if it were that A, it would be that C is to statė that it would be that C relative to the supposition that it were that A. The two interpretations make incompatible predictions concerning the correct evaluation of counterfactuals. I argue that the suppositional interpretation makes the correct prediction.

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