The thin red line theory is a form of branching indeterminism. It entails that, among the many possible developments that reality might take, one is privileged: the actual history (or ‘thin red line’). The thin red line theory is naturally paired off with a semantic thesis that may be called ‘the actuality principle’: a statement is true as used at a moment if and only if it is true at that moment on the actual history. The actuality principle has been challenged, for it would be wrong about several counterfactual reasonings. On the one hand, the actuality principle should entail that any statement uttered at a merely possible moment is untrue. On the other hand, the actuality principle should be at odds with the way we use subjunctive conditionals. This paper argues that both objections rely on an inadequate understanding of the notion of the history of use. As for the first objection, the paper argues that to assume the actuality principle amounts to taking the actual history as the history of use. As a consequence, one cannot consistently take the actual history as the history of use and, at the same time, a merely possible moment as the moment of use. As for the second objection, the paper shows that the actuality principle is consistent with any reasonable treatment of subjunctive conditionals.
Philosophia – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 12, 2017
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