Search engine for discovering works of Art, research articles, and books related to Art and Culture
ShareThis
Javascript must be enabled to continue!

Back to the Present: How Not to Use Counterfactuals to Explain Causal Asymmetry

View through CrossRef
A plausible thought is that we should evaluate counterfactuals in the actual world by holding the present ‘fixed’; the state of the counterfactual world at the time of the antecedent, outside the area of the antecedent, is required to match that of the actual world. When used to evaluate counterfactuals in the actual world, this requirement may produce reasonable results. However, the requirement is deeply problematic when used in the context of explaining causal asymmetry (why causes come before their effects). The requirement plays a crucial role in certain statistical mechanical explanations of the temporal asymmetry of causation. I will use a case of backwards time travel to show how the requirement enforces certain features of counterfactual structure a priori. For this reason, the requirement cannot be part of a completely general method of evaluating counterfactuals. More importantly, the way the requirement enforces features of counterfactual structure prevents counterfactual structure being derived from more fundamental physical structure—as explanations of causal asymmetry demand. Therefore, the requirement cannot be used when explaining causal asymmetry. To explain causal asymmetry, we need more temporally neutral methods for evaluating counterfactuals—those that produce the right results in cases involving backwards time travel, as well as in the actual world.
Title: Back to the Present: How Not to Use Counterfactuals to Explain Causal Asymmetry
Description:
A plausible thought is that we should evaluate counterfactuals in the actual world by holding the present ‘fixed’; the state of the counterfactual world at the time of the antecedent, outside the area of the antecedent, is required to match that of the actual world.
When used to evaluate counterfactuals in the actual world, this requirement may produce reasonable results.
However, the requirement is deeply problematic when used in the context of explaining causal asymmetry (why causes come before their effects).
The requirement plays a crucial role in certain statistical mechanical explanations of the temporal asymmetry of causation.
I will use a case of backwards time travel to show how the requirement enforces certain features of counterfactual structure a priori.
For this reason, the requirement cannot be part of a completely general method of evaluating counterfactuals.
More importantly, the way the requirement enforces features of counterfactual structure prevents counterfactual structure being derived from more fundamental physical structure—as explanations of causal asymmetry demand.
Therefore, the requirement cannot be used when explaining causal asymmetry.
To explain causal asymmetry, we need more temporally neutral methods for evaluating counterfactuals—those that produce the right results in cases involving backwards time travel, as well as in the actual world.

Related Results

Is the leniency asymmetry really dead? Misinterpreting asymmetry effects in criminal jury deliberation
Is the leniency asymmetry really dead? Misinterpreting asymmetry effects in criminal jury deliberation
Early jury simulation research, reviewed and meta-anyalysed by MacCoun and Kerr (1988), suggested a leniency asymmetry in criminal jury deliberations such that a given faction favo...
The Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence
The Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence
A certain type of counterfactual is thought to be intimately related to causation, control, and explanation. The time asymmetry of these phenomena therefore plausibly arises from a...
Memory, the fork asymmetry, and the initial state
Memory, the fork asymmetry, and the initial state
AbstractWhy do we have records of the past and not the future? Entropic explanations for this ‘record asymmetry’ have been popular ever since Boltzmann. Foremost amongst these is A...
A MINIMALIST EXPLANATION OF TRUTH’S ASYMMETRY
A MINIMALIST EXPLANATION OF TRUTH’S ASYMMETRY
Abstract Suppose that Eleanor is drowsy. Truth’s asymmetry is illustrated by the following fact: while we accept that <Eleanor is drowsy> is true becau...
Two Informational Theories of Memory: a case from Memory-Conjunction Errors
Two Informational Theories of Memory: a case from Memory-Conjunction Errors
Abstract The causal and simulation theories are often presented as very distinct views about declarative memory, their major difference lying on the causal condition...
Causal and Corrective Organisational Culture: A Systematic Review of Case Studies of Institutional Failure
Causal and Corrective Organisational Culture: A Systematic Review of Case Studies of Institutional Failure
AbstractOrganisational culture is assumed to be a key factor in large-scale and avoidable institutional failures (e.g. accidents, corruption). Whilst models such as “ethical cultur...
The Roots of Occasionalism? Causation, Metaphysical Dependence, and Soul-Body Relations in Augustine
The Roots of Occasionalism? Causation, Metaphysical Dependence, and Soul-Body Relations in Augustine
Abstract It has long been thought that Augustine holds that corporeal objects cannot act upon incorporeal souls. However, precisely how and why Augustine imposes limitations up...

Back to Top