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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Monday, 6 February 2006


Some properties of counterfactuals

This note is intended to cover questions some readers have about the posts here and some of my comments on works on counterfactual conditionals.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 08:36 GMT
Updated: Monday, 6 February 2006 08:38 GMT
Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Topic: Interconnections

On Linking Dispositions with Conditionals

By Ryan Wasserman and David Manley

We introduce a dilemma that faces any analysis of dispositional ascriptions in terms of subjunctive conditionals. However carefully the relevant conditionals are formulated, the analysis will founder either on the problem of accidental closeness or on the problem of Achilles’ heels. The dilemma arises even for sophisticated versions of the conditional analysis that are designed to avoid the familiar problems of finks and masks. We conclude by evaluating the prospects for an analysis and offering a proposal of our own.

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Saturday, 21 January 2006


New Old Animals from South America

Several species of birds, reptiles and mammals, which were recently discovered, widen the diversity of the pre-historic South American fauna. About 30 new fossil species of South American animals were presented at the Second Latin-American Congress on Vertebrate Paleontology (Rio de Janeiro 2005), such as the 230 million year old and 1.8 meter tall Staurikosaurus pricei, or the first Brazilian Pyrotheria, with a trunk longer than that of an elephant, although smaller in size. Fapesp mag tell us more.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 22:22 GMT
Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006 22:25 GMT
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

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