Counterfactuals Without Causation, Probabilistic Counterfactuals and the Counterfactual Analysis of Causation
AuthorLoewenstein, Yael Rebecca
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIt is near-consensus among those currently working on the semantics of counterfactuals that the correct treatment of counterfactuals (whatever it is) must invoke causal independence in order to rule a particular set of seemingly true counterfactuals – including a famous one called Morgenbesser's Coin (MC) – true. But if we must analyze counterfactuals in terms of causation, this rules out giving a reductive account of causation in terms of counterfactuals, and is, as such, a serious blow to the Humean hope of reducing causation to counterfactual dependence. This dissertation is composed of three self-standing articles. In the first article I argue that counterfactuals like MC are false contrary to appearances; as is the thesis that the correct semantics of counterfactuals must appeal to causal independence. In the second article I argue that there are important, widely-held assumptions about difference-making and its relationship to causation which are false, and which may underlie some of the remaining, most threatening objections to the counterfactual analysis of causation. In the final article I discuss the puzzle of reverse Sobel sequences – an alleged problem for the classic Lewis-Stalnaker semantics for counterfactuals. I argue that none of the extant approaches to the problem are right, and defend a novel solution to the puzzle. If I am correct, reverse Sobel sequences do not threaten the classic analysis. They do, however, give additional evidence for the thesis, forcefully defended by Alan Hájek, that most non-probabilistic 'would'-counterfactuals are false. This motivates placing a stronger emphasis on trying to understand probabilistic counterfactuals first and foremost.
Degree ProgramGraduate College