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Counterfactuals and cotenability Gleb, Gary Timothy


If philosophers had an acceptable theory of counterfactuals, counterfactuals would be an extremely useful philosophical tool. Unfortunately, analysis of the truth-conditions of counterfactuals has proved to be a difficult task. I examine Nelson Goodman's attempt in Fact, Fiction, and Forecast to develop a criterion of truth for counterfactuals, an attempt which ended with the discovery of a notorious problem, that of cotenability. This problem arises directly out of Goodman's inclusion of what is known as the "cotenability condition" within his tentative criterion. I explore in some detail the evidence that Goodman adduces in favour of this condition, and in doing so, argue that the cotenability condition as it stands is viciously circular. However, I also argue that this evidence is best seen as giving rise to two distinct problems, of which the solution to neither requires use of the cotenability condition. Resolution of the first, I claim, ultimately depends on the notion of explanation. With respect to the second, on the other hand, I contend that if the approach I suggest is borne out, then no modification of Goodman's criterion is necessary, other than that required to resolve the first problem.

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