Counterfactuals in critical thinking with application to morality

Luís Moniz Pereira, Ari Saptawijaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Counterfactuals are conjectures about what would have happened, had an alternative event occurred. It provides lessons for the future by virtue of contemplating alternatives; it permits thought debugging; it supports a justification why different alternatives would have been worse or not better. Typical expressions are: “If only I were taller …”, “I could have been a winner …”, “I would have passed, were it not for …”, “Even if … the same would follow”. Counterfactuals have been well studied in Linguistics, Philosophy, Physics, Ethics, Psychology, Anthropology, and Computation, but not much within Critical Thinking. The purpose of this study is to illustrate counterfactual thinking, through logic program abduction and updating, and inspired by Pearl’s structural theory of counterfactuals, with an original application to morality, a common concern for critical thinking. In summary, we show counterfactual reasoning to be quite useful for critical thinking, namely about moral issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-289
Number of pages11
JournalStudies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Abduction
  • Counterfactual reasoning
  • Critical thinking
  • Morality


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