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According to the modal theory of facts and states of affairs, two facts or states of affairs are identical iff they are necessarily equivalent. One important argument against the modal theory is the causal argument of John Perry, which can also be applied with equal strength to a number of more moderate-grain theories of facts and states of affairs. I argue that, at least in its original form, the causal argument is unsound. I also argue that, while the argument can be modified so that it avoids the problems of the original version of the argument, such modifications are at best only successful if they appeal to additional considerations involving either grounding or aboutness. Moreover, I argue that incorporating such considerations into the causal argument allows it to refute its targeted theories only if such considerations by themselves refute these theories. If this is correct, then the causal argument is at best superfluous and we should focus on these other considerations when evaluating these theories. The broader lesson from this is arguably that, in order to best evaluate these theories of facts and states of affairs, we shouldn’t focus on arguments involving causation, but we should instead focus on arguments that involve other notions, such as grounding and aboutness.
Bibliographical noteThis article belongs to the topical collection on Conditionals: Truth Conditions, Probability, and Causality, edited by JiJi Zhang, Alan Hajek, and Chin-Mu Yang.
Research in this paper was supported by an Early Career Scheme grant from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong SAR, China (LU23607616). Thanks to Peter Hawke and four anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on this paper.
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.
- John Perry
- States of affairs
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- 1 Finished
1/01/17 → 31/12/19
Project: Grant Research