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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Topic: Counterfactuals

The Content of Counterfactuals and their Role in Explanation

( Or The Benefit of Hindsight)

By Dorothy Edgington

What are counterfactuals for? The question is pressing. Why do we evaluate counterfactuals the way we do? What would go wrong for us if we chose to evaluate them in some other way, e.g. according to the "standard picture"? The question deserves more attention than it has had in the vast literature on counterfactuals. I don't pretend to an exhaustive answer, but highlight some important aspects of their use.

We use counterfactuals in empirical inferences to conclusions about what is actually the case. We need to try to get them right, in order to avoid, as much as possible, arriving at wrong conclusions about what is the case.

We have seen a way in which our counterfactual judgements explain and justify our other beliefs. Of course they play other roles. As is implicit in several of my earlier examples, they also explain and justify our reactions of being glad or sorry, relieved or regretful, that such-and-such has happened.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 04:04 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006 04:16 GMT
Saturday, 14 January 2006

Topic: Counterfactuals

‘Could have done otherwise’, action sentences and anaphora

By Helen Stewart

What does it mean to say of a certain agent, S, that he or she could have done otherwise? Clearly, it means nothing at all, unless the anaphoric devices within the sentence have been anchored to definite antecedents. In this paper, I shall argue that there may be more ways of effecting this anchoring than is commonly supposed, and hence more questions potentially available to be asked by means of the formulation ‘Could S have done otherwise?’ than is generally assumed to be the case in most of the relevant literature.

Forthcoming in Analysis, July 2006

Posted by Tony Marmo at 05:17 GMT
Updated: Saturday, 14 January 2006 05:18 GMT
Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Topic: Counterfactuals


By Douglas Kutach

A prominent strategy for evaluating whether a counterfactual's truth is to seek out the most similar worlds where the antecedent is true, with similarity given by some theory. I discuss a few new counterexamples to Lewis' theory of overall similarity that are more compelling than other counterexamples because they indicate that a system like Lewis' cannot be fixed. The problem with the similarity approach is that it too narrowly limits the ways we can interpret counterfactual conditionals.

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Reposted firstly on March the 11th, 2005

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006 04:35 GMT

Topic: Counterfactuals

Chances, Counterfactuals and Similarity

By Robert Williams

John Hawthorne in a recent paper takes issue with Lewisian accounts of counterfactuals, when relevant laws of nature are chancy. I respond to his arguments on behalf of the Lewisian, and conclude that while some can be rebutted, the case against the original Lewisian account is strong. I develop a revised neo-Lewisian account of what makes for closeness of worlds in the context of chancy laws of nature. I argue that my revised version avoids Hawthorne's challenges. I argue that this is closer to the spirit of Lewis' first (non-chancy) proposal than is Lewis' own suggested modification.

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Firstly reposted on March the 11th, 2005

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006 04:28 GMT

Topic: Counterfactuals

The Grammatical Ingredients of Counterfactuality

By Sabine Iatridou

Counterfactual constructions convey the meaning that the speaker believes a certain proposition not to hold. This article investigates the morphosyntactic composition of counterfactual conditionals and counterfactual wishes and the question of how the form of counterfactuals is related to their meaning. Across languages, there are combinations of tense, mood, and aspect morphemes that are used repeatedly in the expression of counterfactuality. I discuss the role of all three components.

Keywords: aspect, conditionals, counterfactuals, mood, tense, wishes
Appeared in Linguistic Inquiry

Reposted once on March the 11th, 2005

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006 04:32 GMT

Topic: Counterfactuals

A Causal Theory of Counterfactuals

By Eric Hiddleston

I develop an account of counterfactual conditionals using causal models, and argue that this account is preferable to the currently standard account in terms of similarity of possible worlds due to David Lewis and Robert Stalnaker. I diagnose the attraction of counterfactual theories of causation, and argue that it is illusory.

Appeared in Nous

Firstly reposted on Mach the 11th, 2005

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006 04:30 GMT

Topic: Counterfactuals

David Lewis's Philosophy of Language

By Richard Holton

This is a survey of David Lewis's influential writings in the philosophy of language, published as part of a special issue of Mind and Language marking his death.

Appeared in Mind and Language 18 (2003), pp. 286-95

Previously reposted on March the 11th, 2005

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006 04:22 GMT

Topic: Counterfactuals


By Alan Penczek

One criticism of David Lewis' account of counterfactuals is that it sometimes assigns the wrong truth-value to a counterfactual when both antecedent and consequent happen to be true. Lewis has suggested a possible remedy to this situation, but commentators have found this to be unsatisfactory. I suggest an alternative solution which involves a modification of Lewis' truth conditions, but which confines itself to the resources already present in his account. This modification involves the device of embedding one counterfactual within another. On the revised set of truth conditions, counterfactuals with true components are sometimes true and sometimes false, in a way that is more in keeping with our intuitive judgments about such statements.

Source: Erkenntnis, Volume 46, Number 1, January 1997, Pages: 79 - 85

First reposted on March the 11th, 2005

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006 04:38 GMT
Friday, 30 December 2005

Topic: Interconnections


Going Back to our Roots: Second Generation Biocomputing

By Jon Timmis, Martyn Amos, Wolfgang Bazhaf & Andy Tyrrell

Researchers in the field of biocomputing have, for many years, successfully harvested and exploited the natural world for inspiration in developing systems that are robust, adaptable and capable ? solutions to humandefined problems. However, in this position paper we argue that the time has now come for a reassessment of how we exploit biology to generate new computational systems. Previous solutions (the first generation of biocomputing techniques), whilst reasonably effective, are crude analogues of actual biological systems.
We believe that a new, inherently interdisciplinary approach is needed for the development of the emerging second generation of bio-inspired methods. This new modus operandi will require much closer interaction between the engineering and life sciences communities, as well as a bidirectional flow of concepts, applications and expertise. We support our argument by examining, in this new light, three existing areas of biocomputing (genetic programming, artificial immune systems and evolvable hardware), as well as an emerging area (natural genetic engineering) which may provide useful pointers as to the way forward.

Key words: bio-inspired computing, genetic programming, artificial immune systems, evolvable hardware, natural genetic engineering, biological plausibility

Source: Philoinfo

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:42 GMT
Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005 16:48 GMT

Topic: Interconnections

Language use in a branching Universe

By David Wallace

I investigate the consequences for semantics, and in particular for the semantics of tense, if time is assumed to have a branching structure not out of metaphysical necessity (to solve some philosophical problem) but just as a contingent physical fact, as is suggested by a currently-popular approach to the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005 16:31 GMT

Topic: Counterfactuals

Branching Space- Time, Modal Logic and the Counterfactual Conditional

By Thomas Muller

The paper gives a physicist's view on the framework of branching space-time (Belnap, Synthese 92 (1992), 385–434). Branching models are constructed from physical state assignments. The models are then employed to give a formal semantics for the modal operators possibly and necessarily and for the counterfactual conditional. The resulting formal language can be used to analyse quantum correlation experiments. As an application sketch, Stapp's premises LOC1 and LOC2 from his purported proof of non-locality (Am. J. Phys. 65 (1997), 300–304) are analysed.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005 16:34 GMT
Sunday, 11 December 2005

Topic: Counterfactuals

The Myth of the Categorical Counterfactual

By David Barnett

Remarkably, standard theories presuppose that, contrary to their surface form, counterfactuals are actually categorical statements. On this view, to state that, if it were that A, it would be that C is to state something, not relative to any supposition or hypothesis, but categorically. Differences in detail among the standard theories are differences over which thing is categorically stated by a counterfactual. Nelson Goodman (1947) says that it is an entailment from the antecedent, together with laws of nature and particular facts about the actual world, to the consequent; Robert Stalnaker (1968) says that it is a predication of a single possible world; and David Lewis (1973) says that it is an existential generalization over a set of possible worlds.

By contrast, W.V.O. Quine (1950), John Mackie (1973), Michael Dummett (1978), and Dorothy Edgington (1995) maintain that counterfactuals are as their surface form suggests: conditional statements. I defend this view by presenting a datum that no categorical interpretation can accommodate. The only way to accommodate the datum is to turn to a conditional, or what I shall call a suppositional interpretation, on which to state that, if it were that A, it would be that C is to state, from within the scope of the supposition that it were that A, that it would be that C. On this view, what is stated by a counterfactual is that it would be that C, and what is supposed by it is that it were that A. Counterfactual statements are acts of supposing-cum-stating. The idea of a categorical counterfactual one that states what it does outside the scope of any suppositionis a myth.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 15:52 GMT
Thursday, 8 December 2005

Topic: Counterfactuals

Counterfactual Cognitive Operations in Dreams

By Patrick McNamara, Jensine Andresen, Joshua Arrowood, & Glen Messer

We hypothesized that counterfactual (CF) thought occurs in dreams and that cognitive operations in dreams function to identify a norm violation or novel outcome (recorded in episodic memory) and then to integrate this new content into memory by generating counterfactuals to the violation. In study 1 we compared counterfactual content in 50 dream reports, 50 pain memory reports and 50 pleasant memory reports (equated for word length) and found a significantly greater number of CFs in dream and in pain memory reports relative to pleasant memory reports. In study 2 we used a more liberal method for scoring CF content and analyzed 34 dream reports obtained from elderly individuals engaged in an ongoing study of neuropsychologic, health and religiosity variables. Study 2 also examined neuropsychologic associations to CF content variables. In the elderly sample and with our more liberal scoring procedures we found that norm violations along with counterfactual-like attempts to correct the violations occurred in 97% of reports. In 47% of these cases (roughly half of all reports), attempts to undo the violation obeyed at least one constraint on mutability typically observed in laboratory studies of CF processing. Cognitive operations associated with attempts to undo the norm violation (e.g. transforming focal actors or the most recent causal antecedent of the violation) were significantly correlated with measures of right frontal function. We conclude that dreaming may involve a process of learning from novel outcomes (particularly negative outcomes) by simulating alternative ways of handling these outcomes through counterfactual cognitive processes.

Dreaming, Vol. 12 No. 3, September 2002

Posted by Tony Marmo at 18:43 GMT

Topic: Counterfactuals

Conditionals as Definite Descriptions
(A Referential Analysis)

By Philippe Schlenker

In Counterfactuals, David Lewis noticed that definite descriptions and conditionals display the same kind of non-monotonic behavior. We take his observation literally and suggest that if-clauses are, quite simply, definite descriptions of possible worlds (related ideas are developed in Bittner 2001). We depart from Lewis's analysis, however, in claiming that if-clauses, like Strawsonian definite descriptions, refer. We develop our analysis by drawing both on Stalnaker's Selection Function theory of conditionals and on von Heusinger's Choice Function theory of definiteness, and by generalizing their analyses to plural Choice/Selection Functions.
Finally, we explore some consequences of this referential approach: being definites, if-clauses can be topicalized; the word then can be analyzed as a pronoun which doubles the referential term; the syntactician's Binding Theory constrains possible anaphoric relations between the if-clause and the word then; and general systems of referential classification can be applied to situate the denotation of the descriptive term, yielding a distinction between indicative, subjunctive and `double subjunctive' conditionals.

keywords: definite descriptions, conditionals, semantics

Reference: lingBuzz/000215

Posted by Tony Marmo at 13:00 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005 18:46 GMT
Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Topic: Interconnections

IV European Meeting
E-CAP 2006@NTNU Norway

Norwegian University of Science and Technology Dragvoll Campus, Trondheim, Norway, June 22-24, 2006

Conference Co-Chairs:
Charles Ess (Drury University / NTNU)
May Thorseth (NTNU)

E-CAP 2006 is generously supported by the Programme for Applied Ethics and the Globalization Programme, NTNU.

E-CAP is the European conference on Computing and Philosophy, the European affiliate of the International Association for Computers and Philosophy (IACAP).


January 27, 2006 Submission of extended abstracts
March 1, 2006 Notification of acceptance
May 5, 2006 Early registration deadline
June 22-24, 2006 Conference

From Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 June 2006 the Fourth International European Conference on COMPUTING AND PHILOSOPHY will be held on the Dragvoll

Campus of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.

Continuing the foci of the E-CAP conferences (beginning in Glasgow, 2002), ECAP'06 will deal with all aspects of the computational turn that has emerged over the past several decades, and continues to expand and develop as a result of the multiple interactions between philosophy and computing.

Dr. Lucas Introna, Centre for the Study of Technology & Organisation, Lancaster University, UK
Dr. Raymond Turner, Department of Computer Science, University of Essex, UK
Dr. Vincent Hendricks, Department of Philosophy and Science Studies, Roskilde University, Denmark

We invite papers that address all topics related to computing and philosophy, including cross- and interdisciplinary work that explores the computational turn in new ways. Hence, the following is intended to be suggestive, but not exclusive:

- Philosophy of Computer Science (see here.)
- Ontology (Distributed Processing, Emergent Properties, Formal
Ontology, Network Structures, etc)
- Computational Linguistics
- Global Information Infrastructures
- Philosophy of Information and Information Technology (Including: Information as structure; Semantic information)
- Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Problem of Consciousness and Cognition
- Computer-based Learning and Teaching Strategies and Resources & The Impact of Distance Learning on the Teaching of Philosophy and Computing
- IT and Gender Research, Feminist Technoscience Studies
- Information and Computing Ethics
- Biological Information, Artificial Life, Biocomputation
- New Models of Logic Software
- "Intersections" - e.g., work at the crossroads of logic, epistemology,
philosophy of science and ICT/Computing, such as Philosophy of AI
- Ethical and Political Dimensions of ICTs in Globalization.

Authors should submit an electronic version of an extended abstract (total word count approximately 1000 words). The file should also contain a 300 word abstract that will be used for the conference web site/booklet. Final papers must not exceed a total word count of 3500 words and an abstract of not more than 500 words. The submissions should be made electronically, either as PDF, rtf ,or Word format.

To submit papers click here.
The extended abstract submission deadline is Friday 27th January 2006.

For information about paper submission and the program that is not available on the conference web site, please contact the Conference Co-Chairs.


Registration will take place through the conference web site. The registration fee includes the conference reception, conference lunches and coffee and tea breaks, and one ticket to the conference banquet.

Discounted ("earlybird") registration fee (prior to May 5, 2006): € 200
Discounted registration fee - PhD students: € 100 Euro

Regular registration fee (after May 5, 2006): € 250
Regular registration fee - PhD students: € 150 Euro

(Masters and undergraduate students may register for the conference at no cost: a fee will be assessed, however, to cover the costs of the lunches and catering.)

To book accommodation, please visit the conference web site.

The dragvoll campus at NTNU offers excellent conference facilities as well a beautiful physical setting as it overlooks Trondheim and the Trondheim fjord. The city of Trondheim (Norway's ancient capital and home to theNidaros Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Rhine) is easily accessible by air and rail, and is itself more than worth the visit. Beyond city-related information provided on the conference website, see this.

Source: Philo Info group

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:54 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005 17:01 GMT

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