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Structural Counterfactuals and the Importation Problem (Jenn McDonald)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on April 15th from 4:15-6:15 in room 7314 of the CUNY Graduate Center for a talk by Jenn McDonald (CUNY).

Title: Structural Counterfactuals and the Importation Problem

Abstract: Structural causal models lend themselves to an analysis of counterfactuals – a structural semantics of counterfactuals. The basic idea is that a causal model allows for the clear and precise evaluation of any counterfactual encoded by it. Many argue that a structural semantics is superior to a more traditional similarity semantics, in part due to the latter’s independence from any notion of similarity(Galles & Pearl, 1998; Gallow, 2016; Hiddleston, 2005; Hitchcock, 2018; Pearl, 2000; Starr, 2019). I argue, though, that this is too quick. A similarity semantics employs the notion of similarity to answer what Priest (2018) calls the importation problem– the question of what information is to be held fixed in a counterfactual evaluation. I argue that where similarity semantics relies on an unarticulated notion of similarity, a structural semantics relies on an unarticulated notion of aptness. The superiority of structural semantics depends on its ability to deliver on a principled guide to determining which model(s) is apt. In this talk I go some way towards providing this guide.

 

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