The similarity approach strikes back: Negation in counterfactuals


  • Katrin Schulz



The meaning of counterfactual conditionals is standardly described using the similarity
approach (Stalnaker, 1968; Lewis, 1973). This approach has recently been challenged by
Ciardelli et al. (2018). They argue that the similarity approach is in principle unable to account
for the meaning of counterfactuals with an antecedent consisting of a conjunction embedded
under a negation (¬(p^q)). Ciardelli et al. (2018) dismiss the approach on these grounds and
offer an alternative. The main goal of the present paper is to defend the similarity approach
against this attack. I will argue that the problem that underlies the observations in Ciardelli
et al. 2018 is more general and not solved by the solution they offer. I will furthermore argue,
against Ciardelli et al. (2018), that the cause of the problem is not the similarity approach, but
the interaction of negation with the meaning of counterfactual conditionals. The paper will
conclude with a first outline of a solution for the problem, which still uses the similarity approach,
but combines it with an alternative semantics for negation.
Keywords: counterfactuals, negation, similarity approach, causality.





Schulz, Katrin. 2018. „The Similarity Approach Strikes Back: Negation in Counterfactuals“. ZAS Papers in Linguistics 61 (Januar):343-60.