Journal of Philosophical Logic

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 783-794

First online:

A Peculiarity in Pearl’s Logic of Interventionist Counterfactuals

  • Jiji ZhangAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Lingnan University Email author 
  • , Wai-Yin LamAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Lingnan University
  • , Rafael De ClercqAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Lingnan University

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We examine a formal semantics for counterfactual conditionals due to Judea Pearl, which formalizes the interventionist interpretation of counterfactuals central to the interventionist accounts of causation and explanation. We show that a characteristic principle validated by Pearl’s semantics, known as the principle of reversibility, states a kind of irreversibility: counterfactual dependence (in David Lewis’s sense) between two distinct events is irreversible. Moreover, we show that Pearl’s semantics rules out only mutual counterfactual dependence, not cyclic dependence in general. This, we argue, suggests that Pearl’s logic is either too weak or too strong.


Causal model Counterfactual logic Counterfactual dependence Interventionism