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International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics

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Ed. by Hüntelmann, Rafael / Meixner, Uwe / Tegtmeier, Erwin

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A Refutation of the Lewis-Stalnaker Analysis of Counterfactuals

Marcus Arvan
Published Online: 2016-03-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mp-2016-0008


The standard philosophical analysis of counterfactual conditionals – the Lewis-Stalnaker analysis – analyzes the truth-conditions of counterfactuals in terms of nearby possible worlds. This paper demonstrates that this analysis is false. Section 1 shows that it is a serious epistemic and metaphysical possibility that our “world” is a massive computer simulation, and that if the Lewis-Stalnaker analysis of counterfactuals is correct, then it should extend seamlessly to the case that our world is a computer simulation, in the form of a possible-simulation semantics. Section 2 then shows that a Lewis-Stalnaker-style possible-simulation semantics clearly fails as an analysis of the truth-conditions of counterfactuals in two types of simulated worlds: Humean Simulations and Necessitarian simulations. Section 3 then considers and answers several objections. Finally, Section 4 draws several skeptical lessons about counterfactuals.

Key words: counterfactuals; conditionals; semantics; simulations; meaning.


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About the article

Published Online: 2016-03-24

Published in Print: 2016-04-01

Citation Information: Metaphysica, Volume 17, Issue 1, Pages 109–129, ISSN (Online) 1874-6373, ISSN (Print) 1437-2053, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mp-2016-0008.

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