Applying D. K. Lewis’s Counterfactual Theory of Causation to the Philosophy of Historiography

A theory of causation suitable for historiography must accommodate the many types of causal claims historians make. In this paper, I examine the advantages of applying D. K. Lewis’s counterfactual theory of causation to the philosophy of historiography. I contend that Lewis’s possible world semantics offers a superior framework for making sense of historical causation, and that it lays the foundation for historians to look at history as causal series of events, remaining agnostic as to whether there may be historical regularities or laws. Lewis’s theory can also accommodate important notions often used by historians, such as absences as causes, historical necessity and contingency, and the role they play in the formulation of historical counterfactuals.