Counterpossible Reasoning in Physics

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Abstract

This paper explores three ways in which physics may involve counterpossible reasoning. The first way arises when evaluating false theories: to say what the world would be like if the theory were true, we need to evaluate counterfactuals with physically impossible antecedents. The second way relates to the role of counterfactuals in characterizing causal structure: to say what causes what in physics, we need to make reference to physically impossible scenarios. The third way is novel: to model metaphysical dependence in physics, we need to consider counterfactual consequences of metaphysical impossibilities. Physics accordingly bears substantial and surprising counterpossible commitments.

Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Volume88
Issue number5
Early online date30 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Apr 2021