Interventions in Premise SemanticsSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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This paper investigates what happens when we merge two different lines of theorizing about counterfactuals. One is the comparative closeness view, which was developed by Stalnaker and Lewis in the framework of possible worlds semantics. The second is the interventionist view, which is part of the causal models framework developed in statistics and computer science. Common lore and existing literature have it that the two views can be easily fit together, aside from a few details. I argue that, on the contrary, transplanting causal-models-inspired ideas in a possible worlds framework yields a new semantics. The difference is grounded in different algorithms for handling inconsistent information, hence it touches on issues that are at the very heart of a semantics for contrary-to-fact conditionals. Roughly, Stalnaker/Lewis semantics requires us to evaluate the consequent of a counterfactual at all closest antecedent-verifying possibilities. Causal-models-based semantics also does this, but in addition uses the information contained in the antecedent, together with background causal information, to shift what worlds count as closest. This makes systematically different predictions and generates a new logic. The upshot is that we have a new semantics to study, and a substantial theoretical choice to make.