This still doesn't seem to be enough. You don't mean only that if you had chosen the peach, you would have had it. When you say, "I could have had a peach instead," you also mean that you could have chosen it -- no "ifs" about it. But what does that mean?It can't be explained by pointing out other occasions when you have chosen fruit. And it can't be explained by saying that if you had thought about it harder, or if a friend had been with you who eats like a bird, you would have chosen it. What you are saying is that you could have chosen a peach instead of chocolate cake just then, as things actually were.

Thomas Nagel, What does it all mean, Chapter VI

What does "as things actually were" mean?

1 Answer 1


The phrase "as things actually were" means "under the conditions that existed at the time the choice was available".
What that actually means is what the author is discussing, apparently at some length.

Suppose there is no peach available right now, or they are no longer allowed as choices. Those are conditions (things) as they actually are right now.

When you were presented with the choice, there were peaches available, and it was allowed to choose them. Those are conditions as things actually were then.

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