In writing my entrepreneurship blog, I posted an entry on black swans. One of the links was to counterfactual thinking, something as a washed-up old historian has interested me in some time. What if the founding fathers had been able to text, email, work on the web? Silly stuff, but it gets us writing fiction.
Here's what Wikipedia says about counterfactual thinking:
It seeks to explore history and historical incidents by means of extrapolating a timeline in which certain key historical events did not happen or had an outcome which was different from that which did in fact occur.The article was actually about counterfactual history, but counterfactual history is produced by counterfactual thinking. For example, what would have have Ian done if he hadn't connected up with Richard the night Ian died? Read the whole Wikipedia article. It's interesting.
The purpose of this exercise is to ascertain the relative importance of the event, incident or person the counterfactual hypothesis is negating. For instance, to the counterfactual claim "What would have happened had Hitler drunk coffee instead of tea on the afternoon he committed suicide?", the timeline would have remained unchanged — Hitler in all likelihood still would have committed suicide on April 30, 1945, regardless of what he had to drink that afternoon. However, to the counterfactual "What would have happened had Hitler died in the July, 1944, assassination attempt?", all sorts of possibilities become readily apparent, starting with the reasonable assumption that the Nazi generals would have in all likelihood sued for peace, bringing an early end to World War II. Thus, the counterfactual brings into sharp relief the importance of Hitler as an individual and how his personal fate shaped the course of the War and, ultimately, of world history
What do you think about this? Post a comment.
Writing for me is an entrepreneurial activity. For my entrepreneurship blog, go to www.hatman2.blogspot.com and for entrepreneurial real estate go to www.yourstopforrealestate.com/blog.