Advertisement

Synthese

pp 1–22 | Cite as

Counterfactual reasoning within physical theories

  • Samuel C. FletcherEmail author
S.I.: Reasoning in Physics
  • 150 Downloads

Abstract

If one is interested in reasoning counterfactually within a physical theory, one cannot adequately use the standard possible world semantics. As developed by Lewis and others, this semantics depends on entertaining possible worlds with miracles, worlds in which laws of nature, as described by physical theory, are violated. Van Fraassen suggested instead to use the models of a theory as worlds, but gave up on determining the needed comparative similarity relation for the semantics objectively. I present a third way, in which this similarity relation is determined from properties of the models contextually relevant to the truth of the counterfactual under evaluation. After illustrating this with a simple example from thermodynamics, I draw some implications for future work, including a renewed possibility for a viable deflationary account of laws of nature.

Keywords

Counterfactual conditionals Similarity Relevance Models Laws of nature 

Notes

References

  1. Carroll, J. W. (2016). Laws of nature. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (fall 2016 ed.). Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  2. Ciardelli, I., Zhang, L., & Champollion, L. (2018). Two switches in the theory of counterfactuals. Linguistics and Philosophy, 41(6), 577–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Comesaña, J., & Sartorio, C. (2014). Difference-making in epistemology. Noûs, 48(2), 368–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Earman, J. (1986). A primer on determinism. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fletcher, S. C. (2019). Similarity structure on scientific theories. In B. Skowron (Ed.), Topological philosophy. Berlin: de Gruyter. (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  6. Garson, J. (2016). Modal logic. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (spring 2016 ed.). Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  7. Giere, R. N. (1999). Science without laws. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Glennan, S. (2017). The new mechanical philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goodman, N. (1983). Fact, fiction, and forecast (4th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Hawke, P. (2018). Theories of aboutness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 96(4), 697–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jaramillo, J. L. & Lam, V. (2018). Counterfactuals in the initial value formulation of general relativity. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axy066. (forthcoming)
  12. Jenny, M. (2018). Counterpossibles in science: The case of relative computability. Noûs, 52(3), 530–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kratzer, A. (1981). The notional category of modality. In H. J. Eikmeyer & H. Rieser (Eds.), Words, worlds, and contexts: New approaches in word semantics (pp. 38–74). Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  14. Ladyman, J. (2000). What’s really wrong with constructive empiricism? van Fraassen and the metaphysics of modality. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 51(4), 837–856.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lewis, D. (1973). Counterfactuals. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Lewis, D. (1981). Ordering semantics and premise semantics for counterfactuals. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 10(2), 217–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lewis, D. (1986a). Chapter 17: Counterfactual dependence and time’s arrow. In Philosophical papers (Vol. 2, pp. 32–66). Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Repr. with postscripts).Google Scholar
  18. Lewis, D. (1986b). Chapter 21: Causation. In Philosophical papers (Vol. 2, pp. 159–213). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Lewis, D. (1988a). Relevant implication. Theoria, 54(3), 161–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lewis, D. (1988b). Statements partly about observation. Philosophical Papers, 17(1), 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lewis, D. (2001). Truth making and difference making. Noûs, 35(4), 602–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mares, E. (2014). Relevance logic. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (spring 2014 ed.). Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  23. Mares, E. D. (2004). Relevant logic: A philosophical interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mares, E. D., & Fuhrmann, A. (1995). A relevant theory of conditionals. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 24, 645–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Maudlin, T. (2007). Chapter 1: A modest proposal concerning laws, counterfactuals, and explanations. In The metaphysics within physics (pp. 5–49). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Menzel, C. (2017). Possible worlds. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (winter 2017 ed.). Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  27. Menzies, P. (2017). Counterfactual theories of causation. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (winter 2017 ed.). Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  28. Muller, F. A. (2005). The deep black sea: Observability and modality afloat. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 56(1), 61–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Osorio-Kupferblum, N. (2016). Aboutness. Analysis, 76(4), 528–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Perry, J. (1989). Chapter 8: Possible worlds and subject matter. The problem of the essential indexical and other essays (pp. 145–60). Palo Alto: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  31. Stalnaker, R. (1968). A theory of conditionals. In N. Rescher (Ed.), Studies in logical theory (pp. 98–112). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  32. Strevens, M. (2004). The causal and unification approaches to explanation unified—causally. Noûs, 38(1), 154–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Strevens, M. (2008). Depth: An account of scientific explanation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Swanson, E. (2011). On the treatment of incomparability in ordering semantics and premise semantics. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 40(6), 693–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tan, P. P. (2018). Counterpossible non-vacuity in scientific practice. Journal of Philosophy. https://sites.google.com/site/petertanphilosophy/CORRECT%20VERSION%20jphil%20formatted%20PDF%20oct%202.pdf (forthcoming).
  36. van Fraassen, B. C. (1980). The scientific image. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. van Fraassen, B. C. (1989). Laws and symmetry. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Woodward, J. (2017). Scientific explanation. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (fall 2017 ed.). Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  39. Yablo, S. (2014). Aboutness. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Minnesota, Twin CitiesMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations