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Is Mill Really the Forerunner of the Well-Known Explanation of Counterfactuals?

(Original title: Je Mill naozaj predchodca známeho vysvetlenia kontrafaktuálov?)
Filozofia, 74 (2019), 4, 259-277.
Type of work: Articles
Publication language: Slovak

In the discussion on counterfactuals Ramsey invoked Mill's opinion, when he defended the explanation that counterfactuals are elliptical deductive arguments. Similarly, Ramsey's followers did so. However, a more in-depth investigation reveals that Mill's view that conditionals (implications) express inferences is neither set within some theory of deduction, nor within propositional logic, which he could not adequately grasp due to his extreme inductivism. Mill's view of conditionals was simply inspired by Whately. Therefore, Ramsay's designation of Mill as the forerunner of the explanation of counterfactuals in his line is hasty and unjustified. On the other hand, while Whately, unlike Mill, adequately explains the role of deduction in categorical syllogism and partly also in propositional logic, we do not find in his work sufficient support for the explanation of counterfactuals as elliptical expressions of deductive arguments. That is simply because Whately in case of compound statements, including conditionals, unambiguously prefers content-based, nonlogical inference to logical inference.


Counterfactual, Implication (logical), Logical inference, Non-logical inference

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