Richard Ned Lebow


On his book Forbidden Fruit: Counterfactuals and International Relations

Cover Interview of April 06, 2010

Editor’s note

Originally, this interview ran on the Rorotoko cover page under the headline

“Spelling out the counterfactual method improves policy analysis.”

We highlighted two quotes.

On the first page:

“One of my goals is to develop a set of protocols for conducting counterfactual thought experiments in history and international relations.  Not to create an alternate world but to understanding the causes behind and the contingency of the world in which we live.  I identify conditions that good counterfactual arguments must meet and the generic problems they encounter.”

On the second:

“Psychologists speculate that counterfactuals are credible because of their vividness: they draw people into scenarios and make them appear realistic by providing small details of the kind we associate with our world.  I start with a story of my own, about an alternate world in which Mozart lives to sixty-five and, as a result, neither World War nor the Holocaust occur.”