Philosophical Studies

, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 139–166 | Cite as

Interventionist counterfactuals

  • Rachael BriggsEmail author


A number of recent authors (Galles and Pearl, Found Sci 3 (1):151–182, 1998; Hiddleston, Noûs 39 (4):232–257, 2005; Halpern, J Artif Intell Res 12:317–337, 2000) advocate a causal modeling semantics for counterfactuals. But the precise logical significance of the causal modeling semantics remains murky. Particularly important, yet particularly under-explored, is its relationship to the similarity-based semantics for counterfactuals developed by Lewis (Counterfactuals. Harvard University Press, 1973b). The causal modeling semantics is both an account of the truth conditions of counterfactuals, and an account of which inferences involving counterfactuals are valid. As an account of truth conditions, it is incomplete. While Lewis’s similarity semantics lets us evaluate counterfactuals with arbitrarily complex antecedents and consequents, the causal modeling semantics makes it hard to ascertain the truth conditions of all but a highly restricted class of counterfactuals. I explain how to extend the causal modeling language to encompass a wider range of sentences, and provide a sound and complete axiomatization for the extended language. Extending the truth conditions for counterfactuals has serious consequences concerning valid inference. The extended language is unlike any logic of Lewis’s: modus ponens is invalid, and classical logical equivalents cannot be freely substituted in the antecedents of conditionals.


Counterfactuals Causal modeling Modus ponens Simplification of disjunctive antecedents 



I am thankful for the helpful questions and comments of audience members at the 2011 Carolina Metaphysics Workshop, the 2010 Formal Epistemology Workshop, and various workshops and departmental seminars in Australia. Special thanks are due to Delia Graff Fara and Peter Menzies for extensive commentary and discussion.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Griffith UniversityNathanAustralia

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