I was confused about the difference between indicative conditionals and counterfactuals. Could someone please offer an elaboration?

1 Answer 1


The difference is expressed by the late David Lewis in terms of two examples ('Counterfactuals, 1973) :

  1. Indicative conditional : 'If Oswald did not kill Kennedy, then someone else did'.

  2. Counterfactual conditional : 'If Oswald had not killed Kennedy, then someone else would have.'

As Lewis points out, 1. is probably true and 2. may very well be false. Certainly, accepting 1. does not commit us to 2. and accepting 2. does not commit us to 1.

Everything to do with counterfactuals soon becomes technical but I hope this note gives some idea of what the difference is.

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