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- Contrary to known or agreed facts; untrue.
- Synonym: contrafactual
- Of or in comparison to a hypothetical state of the world.
- 2014 September 15, Martin Gayford, “There's more to Ming than a vase [print version: 16 August 2014, pp. R6–R7]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review):
- What would have happened if those great Chinese voyages [by Zheng He] had continued? It's one of those questions in counter-factual history about which it is impossible to be sure.
- 2019 April 11, Marcel Theroux, “Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan review – intelligent mischief”, in The Guardian:
- The counterfactual 1982 of the novel plays variations on our historical record and contains clear allusions to the present.
contrary to the facts
counterfactual (plural counterfactuals)
- A claim, hypothesis, or other belief that is contrary to the facts.
- A hypothetical state of the world, used to assess the impact of an action.
- 2010 September 1, Ross Douthat, “Iraq in the Long Run”, in New York Times, retrieved 2021-07-15:
- We can spin out complicated counterfactuals that justify the Iraq invasion, and complicated counterfactuals that make it look even worse.
- 2015 December 3, Lee Drutman, “Here's the real reason we don't have gun reform”, in Vox:
- The implicit counterfactual — that these members would support gun control if not for the $1,000 they received from the NRA — seems unlikely to me.
- 2016 February 11, Noah Berlatsky, quoting Neal Roese, “'What if?': Why we can't get enough of counterfactual shows”, in The Guardian:
- Roese also says counterfactuals can serve emotional purposes. You can think about how things could have been worse, and so feel better about yourself, and grateful for where you are.
- (linguistics, philosophy) A conditional statement in which the conditional clause is false.