Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Counterpossibles

Barak L Krakauer, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

Counterpossibles are counterfactuals with necessarily false antecedents. The problem of counterpossibles is easiest to state within the “nearest possible world” framework for counterfactuals: on this approach, a counterfactual is true (roughly) when the consequent is true in the “nearest” possible world where the antecedent is true. Since counterpossibles have necessarily false antecedents, there is no possible world where the antecedent is true. On the approach favored by Lewis, Stalnaker, Williamson, and others, counterpossibles are all trivially true.^ I introduce several arguments against the trivial approach. First, it is counter-intuitive to think that all counterpossibles are true. Second, if all counterpossibles were true, then we could not make sense of their use in logical, philosophical, or mathematical arguments. Making sense of the role of sentences like these requires that they not have vacuous truth conditions. ^ The account of counter possibles I ultimately favor is an extension of the “nearest possible world” semantics discussed above. The Lewis/Stalnaker account is supplemented with the addition of impossible worlds, and the nearness metric is extended to range over these impossible worlds as well as possible worlds. Thus, a counterfactual is true when its consequent is true in the nearest world where the antecedent is true; if the counterfactual’s antecedent is impossible, then the nearest world in question will be an impossible world. Once the framework of impossible worlds and similarity is in place, we can put it to use in the analysis of other philosophical phenomena. I examine one proposal that makes use of a theory of counterpossibles to develop an analysis of the notion of metaphysical dependence.^

Subject Area

Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Krakauer, Barak L, "Counterpossibles" (2012). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3498357.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3498357

Share

COinS