PhilSci Archive

Counterfactual Dependence and Arrow

Kroedel, Thomas and Huber, Franz (2013) Counterfactual Dependence and Arrow. Nous, 47 (3). pp. 453-466.


Download (206kB)


We argue that a semantics for counterfactual conditionals in terms of comparative overall similarity faces a formal limitation due to Arrow’s impossibility theorem from social choice theory. According to Lewis’s account, the truth-conditions for counterfactual conditionals are given in terms of the comparative overall similarity between possible worlds, which is in turn determined by various aspects of similarity between possible worlds. We argue that a function from aspects of similarity to overall similarity should satisfy certain plausible constraints while Arrow’s impossibility theorem rules out that such a function satisfies all the constraints simultaneously. We argue that a way out of this impasse is to represent aspectual similarity in terms of ranking functions instead of representing it in a purely ordinal fashion. Further, we argue against the claim that the determination of overall similarity by aspects of similarity faces a difficulty in addition to the Arrovian limitation, namely the incommensurability of different aspects of similarity. The phenomena that have been cited as evidence for such incommensurability are best explained by ordinary vagueness.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Kroedel, Thomas
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Depositing User: Unnamed user with email
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2014 14:29
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2014 14:29
Item ID: 10841
Journal or Publication Title: Nous
Publisher: Wiley
Official URL:
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Date: 2013
Page Range: pp. 453-466
Volume: 47
Number: 3

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item