Alan Hájek (ANU) - Would Work

This Friday, June 25th, Alan Hájek (ANU) will present on "'Would' Work".


I have long argued that most counterfactuals are false. The chanciness of most counterfactuals’ consequents, and the unspecificity of their antecedents, entail their falsehood. A number of philosophers have defended our intuitive judgments about the truth of various counterfactuals, mostly assuming a similarity semantics for counterfactuals. I beg to differ, offering objections to such semantics.

Another important approach is probabilistic. Adams and Edgington maintain that counterfactuals lack truth conditions, giving accounts based on subjective conditional probabilities. Leitgeb’s account gives counterfactuals truth conditions: the corresponding objective conditional chances are high. I also object to these accounts, but I think that Leitgeb’s is on the right track.

I offer my own positive theory. Counterfactuals typically involve taking some event in our history, envisioning some modification of it, and then stating how things would evolve from that point onwards. Typical counterfactuals are hypothetical predictions:

‘if A had been the case, C would have been the case’ is true


the conditional chance of C, given A, was 1 (shortly before the period of time picked out by A).

I argue that this analysis has a number of virtues. I  conclude again that most counterfactuals are false, but that’s no cause for alarm.

The seminar will be held 100% in person from 2:00-3:30pm in Lectorial 1 on the first floor of the RSSS Building. --> Note the room. ​It will be followed by tea, table tennis, drinks, and a dinner with the speaker. (Sign up for the dinner here.)

Date & time

Fri 25 Jun 2021, 2:55pm to 3:30pm


Lectorial 1, Level 1, RSSS Building, 146 Ellery Cres


Pamela Robinson


Updated:  23 June 2021/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications