Time and Counterfactuals - Sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


This symposium considered the intersection between temporal and counterfactual cognition. The types of counterfactual thoughts studied by psychologists are almost always about something that happened in the past (e.g., “If I had studied harder, I would have passed the exam.”). Moreover, although most philosophers do not assume that counterfactuals must be past-directed, much philosophical discussion about the emotions of regret and relief focuses on their past-directed nature (most famously Arthur Prior’s “Thank goodness that’s over” argument). These past-directed emotions of regret and relief are typically described by psychologists as counterfactual emotions, i.e., emotions that are underpinned by counterfactual thought. For example, regret occurs because one entertains a counterfactual thought that had one chosen differently (studied more) a counterfactual outcome would have obtained (passing an exam) that was better than the actual outcome (failing the exam). However, in characterizing the nature and function of regret and relief, the contributions of temporal versus counterfactual cognition are unclear. More broadly, it is not clear how temporal and counterfactual cognition intersect or how they are developmentally related. This interdisciplinary symposium looked at the links between temporal and counterfactual thought from the perspective of philosophy, cognitive psychology, and developmental psychology.
PeriodSep 2019
Event typeConference
LocationAthens, GreeceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational