mike - 14 Reflections on Legality Michael Caie 85 The...

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14. Reflections on Legality Michael Caie 85. The Primacy of Law -We have seen that, on Bennett’s account, in analyzing a subjunctive conditional A > C the closest A-worlds must be causally legal from the time of the fork onwards. -This condition on similarity is necessary to capture many subjunctive conditionals we intuitively regard as being true. In particular, this condition allows us to deal with those conditionals of the form A > Big Difference. If the similarity relation was not constrained by the demands of causal legality but was based on all-in similarity no conditional A > Big Difference, that we intuitively regard as being true, would come out as such on our account, for any A-world in which the consequent was false would be overall more similar to our world than any A-world in which the consequent was true. However, we do think that many conditionals of the form A> Big Difference are true- for example ‘If Stauffenberg had placed the bomb a foot to the right> Hitler would have been killed’- and the reason that we think this is that we believe that with the antecedent in place there exist causally sufficient conditions for the consequent to be the case. -This latter point highlights a more general reason for the requirement of legality. Our subjunctive conditionals, for the most part, concern events, where it is assumed that had a certain event occurred, a different event would also have occurred at a different time, and in order to get from one event to the occurrence of another we need, as Bennett puts it, “ ‘the cement of the universe’, causation”.(pp. 222) - Nicholas Rescher, in “”Belief-Contravening Suppositions”, gives an account of counterfactual conditionals (he considers only subjunctive conditionals whose antecedents are false) that tries to explain why we take certain counterfactual statements to be true, and others false. -Bennett claims to have little sympathy for this account, and levels three objections against it. It will be worth our time to briefly go over Rescher’s account, for I think it may provide some further illumination for why we require that the closest worlds be ones that conform to our causal laws. -On Rescher’s account counterfactual conditionals fall into two categories: 1)Nomological conditionals 2)Purely hypothetical conditionals Nomological conditionals are ones whose consequent follows from the antecedent as a matter of general law. So, to take an example of Rescher’s: “If Smith had eaten an ounce of arsenic, he would have died.” This is true, according to Rescher, in virtue of a general law to the effect that all people who eat an ounce of arsenic die.
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With purely hypothetical conditionals, on the other hand, no laws tell us whether given that the antecedent is true the consequent is also true. To take a hackneyed example: “If Bizet and Verdi had been compatriots, Verdi would not have been Italian”. According to Rescher this is not true because the relevant general law: “All compatriots are from the same country”, does
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mike - 14 Reflections on Legality Michael Caie 85 The...

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