Counterfactuals: Paths of the Might have Been

Counterfactuals: Paths of the Might have Been

by Christopher Prendergast

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Overview

What are counterfactuals and what is their point? In many cases, none at all. It may be true that if kangaroos didn't have tails, they would fall over, but they do have tails and if they didn't they wouldn't be kangaroos (or would they?). This is the sort of thing that can give counterfactuals a bad name, as inhabitants of a La La Land of the mind. On the other hand, counterfactuals do useful service across a broad range of disciplines in both the sciences and the humanities, including philosophy, history, cosmology, biology, cognitive psychology, jurisprudence, economics, art history, literary theory. They are also richly, albeit sometimes treacherously, present in the everyday human realm of how our lives are both imagined and lived: in the 'crossroads' scenario of decision-making, the place of regret in retrospective assessments of paths taken and not taken, and, at the outer limit, as the wish not to have been born.

Christopher Prendergast take us on a dizzying exploratory jourbaney through some of these intellectual and human landscapes, mobilizing a wide range of reference from antiquity to the present, and sustained by the belief that, whether as help or hindrance, and with many variations across cultures, counterfactual thinking and imagining are fundamental to what it is to be human.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781350090095
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 05/16/2019
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.37(w) x 8.57(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

Christopher Prendergast is a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge and a Fellow of the British Academy. He writes for the London Review of Books and the New Left Review.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements viii

Introduction: The Conjectural Breeze of Time 1

1 A Naile, a Nose and a Traitor 27

2 Just the Facts, Ma'am: Fact and Counterfact 49

3 Flying Blind: Angelus Novus and Allegory of Prudence 67

4 Crossroads: Three Tales, Three Gamblers 87

5 Looking Back: From Metanoia to Buyer's Regret 119

6 Not, Never or Forever Being Me 151

7 On the Run with Fernando Pessoa 177

Notes 193

Index 235

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