The present thesis focuses on counterfactuals. Specifically, we will address new questions and open problems that arise for the standard semantic accounts of counterfactual conditionals. The first four chapters deal with the Lewisian semantic account of counterfactuals. On a technical level, we contribute by providing an equivalent algebraic semantics for Lewis' variably strict conditional logics, which is notably absent in the literature. We introduce a new kind of algebra and differentiate between local and global versions of each of Lewis' variably strict conditional logics. We study the algebraic properties of Lewis' logics and the structure theory of our newly introduced algebras. Additionally, we employ a new algebraic construction, based on the framework of Boolean algebras of conditionals, to provide an alternative semantics for Lewisian counterfactual conditionals. This semantic account allows us to establish new truth conditions for Lewisian counterfactuals, implying that Lewisian counterfactuals are definable conditionals, and each counterfactual can be characterized as a modality of a corresponding probabilistic conditional. We further extend these results by demonstrating that each Lewisian counterfactual can also be characterized as a modality of the corresponding Stalnaker conditional. The resulting formal semantic framework is much more expressive than the standard one and, in addition to providing new truth conditions for counterfactuals, it also allows us to define a new class of conditional logics falling into the broader framework of weak logics. On the philosophical side, we argue that our results shed new light on the understanding of Lewisian counterfactuals and prompt a conceptual shift in this field: Lewisian counterfactual dependence can be understood as a modality of probabilistic conditional dependence or Stalnakerian conditional dependence. In other words, whether a counterfactual connection occurs between A and B depends on whether it is "necessary" for a Stalnakerian/probabilistic dependence to occur between A and B. We also propose some ways to interpret the kind of necessity involved in this interpretation. The remaining two chapters deal with the probability of counterfactuals. We provide an answer to the question of how we can characterize the probability that a Lewisian counterfactual is true, which is an open problem in the literature. We show that the probability of a Lewisian counterfactual can be characterized in terms of belief functions from DempsterShafer theory of evidence, which are a superadditive generalization of standard probability. We define an updating procedure for belief functions based on the imaging procedure and show that the probability of a counterfactual A > B amounts to the belief function of B imaged on A. This characterization strongly relies on the logical results we proved in the previous chapters. Moreover, we also solve an open problem concerning the procedure to assign a probability to complex counterfactuals in the framework of causal modelling semantics. A limitation of causal modelling semantics is that it cannot account for the probability of counterfactuals with disjunctive antecedents. Drawing on the same previous works, we define a new procedure to assign a probability to counterfactuals with disjunctive antecedents in the framework of causal modelling semantics. We also argue that our procedure is satisfactory in that it yields meaningful results and adheres to some conceptually intuitive constraints one may want to impose when computing the probability of counterfactuals.
Counterfactuals 2.0 Logic, Truth Conditions, and Probability
ROSELLA, GIULIANO
20231110
Abstract
The present thesis focuses on counterfactuals. Specifically, we will address new questions and open problems that arise for the standard semantic accounts of counterfactual conditionals. The first four chapters deal with the Lewisian semantic account of counterfactuals. On a technical level, we contribute by providing an equivalent algebraic semantics for Lewis' variably strict conditional logics, which is notably absent in the literature. We introduce a new kind of algebra and differentiate between local and global versions of each of Lewis' variably strict conditional logics. We study the algebraic properties of Lewis' logics and the structure theory of our newly introduced algebras. Additionally, we employ a new algebraic construction, based on the framework of Boolean algebras of conditionals, to provide an alternative semantics for Lewisian counterfactual conditionals. This semantic account allows us to establish new truth conditions for Lewisian counterfactuals, implying that Lewisian counterfactuals are definable conditionals, and each counterfactual can be characterized as a modality of a corresponding probabilistic conditional. We further extend these results by demonstrating that each Lewisian counterfactual can also be characterized as a modality of the corresponding Stalnaker conditional. The resulting formal semantic framework is much more expressive than the standard one and, in addition to providing new truth conditions for counterfactuals, it also allows us to define a new class of conditional logics falling into the broader framework of weak logics. On the philosophical side, we argue that our results shed new light on the understanding of Lewisian counterfactuals and prompt a conceptual shift in this field: Lewisian counterfactual dependence can be understood as a modality of probabilistic conditional dependence or Stalnakerian conditional dependence. In other words, whether a counterfactual connection occurs between A and B depends on whether it is "necessary" for a Stalnakerian/probabilistic dependence to occur between A and B. We also propose some ways to interpret the kind of necessity involved in this interpretation. The remaining two chapters deal with the probability of counterfactuals. We provide an answer to the question of how we can characterize the probability that a Lewisian counterfactual is true, which is an open problem in the literature. We show that the probability of a Lewisian counterfactual can be characterized in terms of belief functions from DempsterShafer theory of evidence, which are a superadditive generalization of standard probability. We define an updating procedure for belief functions based on the imaging procedure and show that the probability of a counterfactual A > B amounts to the belief function of B imaged on A. This characterization strongly relies on the logical results we proved in the previous chapters. Moreover, we also solve an open problem concerning the procedure to assign a probability to complex counterfactuals in the framework of causal modelling semantics. A limitation of causal modelling semantics is that it cannot account for the probability of counterfactuals with disjunctive antecedents. Drawing on the same previous works, we define a new procedure to assign a probability to counterfactuals with disjunctive antecedents in the framework of causal modelling semantics. We also argue that our procedure is satisfactory in that it yields meaningful results and adheres to some conceptually intuitive constraints one may want to impose when computing the probability of counterfactuals.File  Dimensione  Formato  

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