Leitgeb, Hannes (2012): A Probabilistic Semantics for Counterfactuals. Part A. In: The Review of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 5, Nr. 1: S. 26-84
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This is part A of a paper in which we defend a semantics for counterfactuals which is probabilistic in the sense that the truth condition for counterfactuals refers to a probability measure. Because of its probabilistic nature, it allows a counterfactual `if A then B' to be true even in the presence of relevant `A and not B'-worlds, as long such exceptions are not too widely spread. The semantics is made precise and studied in different versions which are related to each other by representation theorems. Despite its probabilistic nature, we show that the semantics and the resulting system of logic may be regarded as a naturalistically vindicated variant of David Lewis' truth-conditional semantics and logic of counterfactuals. At the same time, the semantics overlaps in various ways with the non-truth-conditional suppositional theory for conditionals that derives from Ernest Adams' work. We argue that counterfactuals have two kinds of pragmatic meanings and come attached with two types of degrees of acceptability or belief, one being suppositional, the other one being truth based as determined by our probabilistic semantics; these degrees could not always coincide due to a new triviality result for counterfactuals, and they should not be identified in the light of their different interpretation and pragmatic purpose. However, for plain assertability the difference between them does not matter. Hence, if the suppositional theory of counterfactuals is formulated with sufficient care, our truth-conditional theory of counterfactuals is consistent with it. The results of our investigation are used to assess a claim considered by Hawthorne and Hájek, that is, the thesis that most ordinary counterfactuals are false.