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Chance and Temporal Asymmetry$
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Alastair Wilson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673421

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673421.001.0001

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Hume’s Dictum and the Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence

Hume’s Dictum and the Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence

(p.258) 13Hume’s Dictum and the Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence
Chance and Temporal Asymmetry
Jessica Wilson
Oxford University Press

Hume’s Dictum (HD)—the thesis that there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed, entities—plays an influential role in contemporary debate, but why believe it? Jonathan Schaffer has claimed that the best account of counterfactuals requires the truth of HD (causal): HD applied to the case of causal or lawful connections. Three sub-claims upon which Schaffer’s argument depends are identified: (1) the best account of counterfactuals is a similarity-based account; (2) there are non-artificial contexts in which the similarity-based evaluation of an appropriate range of counterfactuals involves appeal to a “COSMic” account—a “Miracle-based” account of Comparative Overall Similarity; and (3) a similarity-based account of counterfactuals, filled in with a COSMic account, requires the truth of HD (causal). It is argued that while (1) is plausible, (2) is false; and that in any case (3) doesn’t follow from (1) and (2).

Keywords:   Hume’s Dictum, counterfactuals, necessary connections, counterfactual asymmetry, modality

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