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Konditionale und minimale Differenz

Pafel, Jürgen

Linguistische Berichte (LB), Bd. 2022 (2022), Iss. 270: S. 63–109

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Pafel, Jürgen


Counterfactuals invite us to imagine a course of the world in which certain state-of-affairs obtain which might be contrary to fact, but which is otherwise identical to the real course of the world. They invite us to imagine a minimal different course of the world. Minimal difference is an essential ingredient of many, perhaps most, semantic accounts of counterfactuals. They differ in the way they conceptualize minimal difference. I present a definition of ‘minimal different course of the world’ after discussing many scenarios in detail, with respect to which certain counterfactuals are supposed to be true or false. Minimal difference means that, as for a ‘counterfactual’ course of the world, everything is as it actually is except that (i) the counterfactual’s antecedent is true and (ii) state-of-affair obtain which are possible in virtue of (i) and the regularities of the world. With this background, the truth condition of a counterfactual can be stated as follows: It is true if the consequent is true in every course of the world inwhich the antecedent is true, and which is minimal different from the actual course of the world. This kind of truth condition is argued to be adequate for singular indicative conditionals too. Various problems concerning this extension are discussed. A closer look at the pragmatics of counterfactuals exhibits a variety of different ‘implications’, whose status is partially unclear. Finally, I discuss the prospects of extending the minimal-difference semantics of conditionals to causals.