Barry Loewer

Senior Fellow
Discipline: 
Philosophy of Science
Institution: 
Rutgers University, Newark, US
Project Title: 
A Unified Account of Coniditionals in terms of Conditional Probability; or “If-Then-What”
Project Abstract: 

In English conditional propositions are generally expressed by sentences that have an "if...then..." structure. For example, "if the stimulus plan had been twice as large the recession would now be over." Conditionals are central in mathematical, scientific, historical, and everyday reasoning. The two main kinds of conditionals are counterfactuals and indicatives. The conditional mentioned above is a counterfactual. It asks us to suppose – contrary to fact- that the stimulus plan was twice the size of Obama's actual plan. "If Shakespeare didn't write Macbeth then Marlowe did" is an indicative. Roughly, it asks to consider what it is reasonable to believe on the supposition that Shakespeare didn't write Macbeth. One of the main problems in the study of conditionals is understanding the relationship between these two kinds of conditionals. Another is understanding the relationship between conditionals and conditional probability. An example of a conditional probability is the probability that the democrats will control congress given that unemployment drops to 9% in October. My research project involves developing a unified probabilistic account of conditionals that subsumes both counterfactuals and indicatives by analyzing them in terms of conditional probability.

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