Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Counterpossibles, counterfactuals conditional with impossible antecedents, are notoriously contested; while the standard view makes them trivially true, some authors argue that they can be non-trivially true. In this paper, I examine the use of counterfactuals in the context of games, and argue that there is a case to be made for their non-triviality in a restricted sense. In particular, I examine the case of retro problems in chess, where it can happen that one is tasked with evaluating counterfactuals about illegal positions. If we understand illegality as a type of restricted impossibility, those counterfactuals are non-trivial counterpossibles. I suggest that their non-triviality stems from their role in practices of rule coordination and revision, and suggest that this model could be generalized to counterpossibles in different domains. I then compare the approach to the accounts of Vetter 2016 and Locke 2019.

There is an ongoing debate about the status of counterpossibles, counterfactuals with impossible antecedents. There are roughly two camps: one defends the view that counterpossibles are vacuously true, while the other defends the view that counterpossibles can be non-vacuously true or false. One of the main motivations for…


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