Quasi-miracles, typicality, and counterfactuals

Dylan Dodd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

If one flips an unbiased coin a million times, there are 2(1,000,000) series of possible heads/tails sequences, any one of which might be the sequence that obtains, and each of which is equally likely to obtain. So it seems (1) 'If I had tossed a fair coin one million times, it might have landed heads every time' is true. But as several authors have pointed out, (2) 'If I had tossed a fair coin a million times, it wouldn't have come up heads every time' will be counted as true in everyday contexts. And according to David Lewis' influential semantics for counterfactuals, (1) and (2) are contradictories. We have a puzzle. We must either (A) deny that (2) is true, (B) deny that (1) is true, or (C) deny that (1) and (2) are contradictories, thus rejecting Lewis' semantics. In this paper I discuss and criticize the proposals of David Lewis and more recently J. Robert G. Williams which solve the puzzle by taking option (B). I argue that we should opt for either (A) or (C).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-360
Number of pages10
JournalSynthese
Volume179
Issue number3
Early online date16 Sep 2009
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

Keywords

  • counterfactuals
  • counterfactual scepticism
  • quasi-miracles
  • atypical events
  • David Lewis
  • chances

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