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Causation and Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Westfälische Wilhelms Universität, Münster)
Assistant editor: Florian Boge (University of Cologne, University of Cologne)
About this topic
Summary Many accounts of causation, i.e. theories that answer to the question when an event e can be said to have been caused by an event c, say that c-type events and e-type events have to be connected by a law of nature: a law that says that all C events are followed by E events. So, for example, saying that throwing this powder into this glass of water caused an explosion is, roughly, true only if it is a natural law that that kind of powder (magnesium, say) explodes when in contact with H2O. A contrary view says that causation is singular, i.e., whether two events are cause and effect, does not depend on the respective event kinds being related by a law.
Key works For the classic expression of the nomicity of causation see: Davidson 1995. For the locus classicus of the singularist account see: Ducasse 1966
Introductions Carroll 2008
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  1. D. M. Armstrong (1997). Singular Causation and Laws of Nature. In John Earman & John Norton (eds.), The Cosmos of Science. University of Pittsburgh Press. 498--511.
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  2. David M. Armstrong (1999). The Open Door: Counterfactual Versus Singularist Theories of Causation. In. In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer. 175--185.
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  3. Clint Ballinger (2007). Initial Conditions and the 'Open Systems' Argument Against Laws of Nature. Metaphysica 9 (1):17-31.
    This article attacks “open systems” arguments that because constant conjunctions are not generally observed in the real world of open systems we should be highly skeptical that universal laws exist. This work differs from other critiques of open system arguments against laws of nature by not focusing on laws themselves, but rather on the inference from open systems. We argue that open system arguments fail for two related reasons; 1) because they cannot account for the “systems” central to their argument (...)
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  4. Michael Baumgartner (2008). Regularity Theories Reassessed. Philosophia 36 (3):327-354.
    For a long time, regularity accounts of causation have virtually vanished from the scene. Problems encountered within other theoretical frameworks have recently induced authors working on causation, laws of nature, or methodologies of causal reasoning – as e.g. May (Kausales Schliessen. Eine Untersuchung über kausale Erklärungen und Theorienbildung. Ph.D. thesis, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, 1999), Ragin (Fuzzy-set social science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), Graßhoff and May (Causal regularities. In W. Spohn, M. Ledwig, & M. Esfeld (Eds.), Current issues in (...)
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  5. Nora Berenstain & James Ladyman (2012). Ontic Structural Realism and Modality. In Elaine Landry & Dean Rickles (eds.), Structural Realism: Structure, Object, and Causality. Springer.
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  6. Gerd Buchdahl (1965). Causality, Causal Laws and Scientific Theory in the Philosophy of Kant. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 16 (63):187-208.
  7. John W. Carroll, Laws of Nature. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    John Carroll undertakes a careful philosophical examination of laws of nature, causation, and other related topics. He argues that laws of nature are not susceptible to the sort of philosophical treatment preferred by empiricists. Indeed he shows that emperically pure matters of fact need not even determine what the laws are. Similar, even stronger, conclusions are drawn about causation. Replacing the traditional view of laws and causation requiring some kind of foundational legitimacy, the author argues that these phenomena are inextricably (...)
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  8. Nancy Cartwright (1993). In Defence of `This Worldly' Causality: Comments on Van Fraassen's Laws and Symmetry. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):423-429.
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  9. Nancy Cartwright (1979). Causal Laws and Effective Strategies. Noûs 13 (4):419-437.
    La autora presenta algunas criticas generales al proyecto de reducir las leyes causales a probabilidades. Además, muestra que las leyes causales son imprescindibles para poder diferenciar las strategias efectivas de las que no lo son y da un criterio para considerar cuando podemos deducir causalidad a través de datos estadísticos.
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  10. F. John Clendinnen (1999). Causal Dependence and Laws. In. In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer. 187--213.
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  11. John R. Cook (2006). Review of Donald Davidson's Truth, Language, and History. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review (6):399-401.
    Language, Truth, and History is an excellent volume of essays coming from one of the most important philosophers in the last fifty years. It would be of interest to anyone interested in the ways Davidson's philosophy evolved after the publication of the first two volumes, and it is essential reading for anyone working in philosophy of language or philosophy of mind.
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  12. Richard Corry (2006). Causal Realism and the Laws of Nature. Philosophy of Science 73 (3):261-276.
    This paper proposes a revision of our understanding of causation that is designed to address what Hartry Field has suggested is the central problem in the metaphysics of causation today: reconciling Bertrand Russell’s arguments that the concept of causation can play no role in the advanced sciences with Nancy Cartwright’s arguments that causal concepts are essential to a scientific understanding of the world. The paper shows that Russell’s main argument is, ironically, very similar to an argument that Cartwright has put (...)
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  13. Richard Corry, Robert N. Brandon, H. Frederik Nijhout, Richard Dawid, Ron Mallon, Jonathan M. Weinberg & Hong Yu Wong (2006). Causal Realism and the Laws of Nature. In Borchert (ed.), Philosophy of Science. Macmillan. 261-276.
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  14. Joseph K. Cosgrove (2012). Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy, by Walter Ott. International Philosophical Quarterly 52 (3):379-381.
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  15. Barry Dainton (2009). Causation and Laws of Nature. In John Shand (ed.), Central Issues in Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  16. Donald Davidson (1995). Laws and Cause. Dialectica 49 (2-4):263-79.
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  17. Steven M. Duncan, Causal Necessity and the Future: Two Views.
    In this paper I offer an alternative to the standard, mechanistic/fatalistic account of causal necessity, one compatible with the existence of laws of nature but not deterministic in the way this is usually understood.
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  18. A. S. Eddington (1933). Causality. A Law of Nature or a Maxim of the Naturalist? By L. Silberstein, Ph.D. (London: Macmillan & Co. 1933. Pp. Viii + 159. Price 4s. 6d.). [REVIEW] Philosophy 8 (32):486-.
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  19. Brian Ellis (2000). Causal Laws and Singular Causation. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (2):329-351.
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  20. Michael Esfeld (2010). Causal Overdetermination for Humeans? Metaphysica 11 (2):99-104.
    The paper argues against systematic overdetermination being an acceptable solution to the problem of mental causation within a Humean counterfactual theory of causation. The truth-makers of the counterfactuals in question include laws of nature, and there are laws that support physical to physical counterfactuals, but no laws in the same sense that support mental to physical counterfactuals.
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  21. Evan Fales (1990). Causation and Universals. Routledge.
    Then, adopting the view of Armstrong and others that causation is grounded in a second-order relation between universals, he explores a range of topics for ...
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  22. Matt Farr & Alexander Reutlinger (2013). A Relic of a Bygone Age? Causation, Time Symmetry and the Directionality Argument. Erkenntnis 78 (2):215-235.
    Bertrand Russell famously argued that causation is not part of the fundamental physical description of the world, describing the notion of cause as “a relic of a bygone age” (Russell in Proc Aristot Soc 13:1–26, 1913). This paper assesses one of Russell’s arguments for this conclusion: the ‘Directionality Argument’, which holds that the time symmetry of fundamental physics is inconsistent with the time asymmetry of causation. We claim that the coherence and success of the Directionality Argument crucially depends on the (...)
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  23. Michel Ghins (2010). Laws of Nature: Do We Need a Metaphysics? Principia 11 (2):127-150.
    In this paper, I briefly present the regularity and necessity views and assess their difficulties. I construe scientific laws as universal propositions satisfied by empirically successful scientific models and made — approximately — true by the real systems represented, albeit partially, by these models. I also conceive a scientific theory as a set of models together with a set of propositions, some of which are laws. A scientific law is a universal proposition or statement that belongs to a scientific theory. (...)
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  24. Tyler Hildebrand (2013). Tooley's Account of the Necessary Connection Between Law and Regularity. Philosophical Studies 166 (1):33-43.
    Fred Dretske, Michael Tooley, and David Armstrong accept a theory of governing laws of nature according to which laws are atomic states of affairs that necessitate corresponding natural regularities. Some philosophers object to the Dretske/Tooley/Armstrong theory on the grounds that there is no illuminating account of the necessary connection between governing law and natural regularity. In response, Michael Tooley has provided a reductive account of this necessary connection in his book Causation (1987). In this essay, I discuss an improved version (...)
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  25. Christopher Hughes & Robert Merrihew Adams (1992). Miracles, Laws of Nature and Causation. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 66 (66):179 - 224.
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  26. Andreas Hüttemann (2013). Kausalität, Determinismus und Physik Schlicks frühe Überlegungen zum Kausalbegriff im Lichte der zeitgenössischen Diskussion. Schlickiana 6:323-336.
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  27. Gurol Irzik (1990). Singular Causation and Law. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:537 - 543.
    Humean accounts of law are at the same time accounts of causation. Accordingly, since laws are nothing but contingent cosmic regularities, to be a cause is just to be an instance of such a law. Every particular cause-effect pair, according to these accounts, instantiates some law of nature. I argue that this claim is false. Singular causation without being governed by any law is logically and physically possible. Separating causes from laws enables us to see the distinct role each plays (...)
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  28. Max Kistler (2007). Causation and Laws of Nature. In Michael Beaney (ed.), The Analytic Turn: Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. Routledge.
    Causation is important. It is, as Hume said, the cement of the universe, and lies at the heart of our conceptual structure. Causation is one of the most fundamental tools we have for organizing our apprehension of the external world and ourselves. But philosophers' disagreement about the correct interpretation of causation is as limitless as their agreement about its importance. The history of attempts to elucidate the nature of this concept and to situate it with respect to other fundamental concepts (...)
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  29. Max Kistler (2002). The Causal Criterion of Reality and the Necessity of Laws of Nature. Metaphysica 3 (1):57-86.
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  30. Douglas Kutach (2013). Causation and Its Basis in Fundamental Physics. Oxford University Press.
    I provide a comprehensive metaphysics of causation based on the idea that fundamentally things are governed by the laws of physics, and that derivatively difference-making can be assessed in terms of what fundamental laws of physics imply for hypothesized events. Highlights include a general philosophical methodology, the fundamental/derivative distinction, and my mature account of causal asymmetry.
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  31. Douglas Kutach (2011). Backtracking Influence. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (1):55-71.
    Backtracking influence is influence that zigzags in time. For example, backtracking influence exists when an event E_1 makes an event E_2 more likely by way of a nomic connection that goes from E_1 back in time to an event C and then forward in time to E_2. I contend that in our local region of spacetime, at least, backtracking influence is redundant in the sense that any existing backtracking influence exerted by E_1 on E_2 is equivalent to E_1's temporally direct (...)
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  32. Douglas Kutach (2011). The Asymmetry of Influence. In Craig Callender (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time. Oxford University Press.
    An explanation of our seeming inability to influence the past.
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  33. Stephen Mumford (2013). Max Kistler Causation and Laws of Nature: Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):223-227.
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  34. Stephen Mumford (2013). Max Kistler: Causation and Laws of Nature. [REVIEW] British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):223-227.
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  35. Kara Richardson (2011). Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy. Review of Metaphysics 65 (1):177-179.
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  36. Howard Sankey (ed.) (1999). Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer.
    Because the book represents a good cross-section of authors currently working on these themes in the Australasian region, it conveys something of the interest ...
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  37. Jonathan Schaffer (2008). Causation and Laws of Nature : Reductionism. In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell Pub.. 82-107.
    Causation and the laws of nature are nothing over and above the pattern of events, just like a movie is nothing over and above the sequence of frames. Or so I will argue. The position I will argue for is broadly inspired by Hume and Lewis, and may be expressed in the slogan: what must be, must be grounded in what is.
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  38. Scott A. Shalkowski (1992). Supervenience and Causal Necessity. Synthese 90 (1):55-87.
    Causal necessity typically receives only oblique attention. Causal relations, laws of nature, counterfactual conditionals, or dispositions are usually the immediate subject(s) of interest. All of these, however, have a common feature. In some way, they involve the causal modality, some form of natural or physical necessity. In this paper, causal necessity is discussed with the purpose of determining whether a completely general empiricist theory can account for the causal in terms of the noncausal. Based on an examination of causal relations, (...)
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  39. Benjamin Smart, A Critique of Humean and Anti-Humean Metaphysics of Cause and Law - Final Version.
    Metaphysicians play an important role in our understanding of the universe. In recent years, physicists have focussed on finding accurate mathematical formalisms of the evolution of our physical system - if a metaphysician can uncover the metaphysical underpinnings of these formalisms; that is, why these formalisms seem to consistently map the universe, then our understanding of the world and the things in it is greatly enhanced. Science, then, plays a very important role in our project, as the best scientific formalisms (...)
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  40. Sheldon R. Smith (2000). Resolving Russell's Anti-Realism About Causation. The Monist 83 (2):274-295.
    In "On the Notion of Cause," Bertrand Russell expressed an eliminativist view about causation driven by an examination of the contents of mathematical physics. Russell's primary reason for thinking that the notion of causation is absent in physics was that laws of nature are mere "functional dependencies" and not "causal laws." In this paper, I show that several ordinary notions of causation can be found within the functional dependencies of physics. Not only does this show that Russell's eliminitivism was misguided, (...)
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  41. Ernest Sosa (1980). Varieties of Causation. Grazer Philosophische Studien 11:93-103.
    According to nomological accounts of causation causal connections among events or states must be mediated by contingent laws of nature. Three types of causal connection are cited and discussed in opposition to such nomological accounts: (a) material causation (as when a zygote is generated by the union of an ovum and a sperm); (b) consequentialist causation (as when an apple is chromatically colored as a result of being red); (c) inclusive causation (as when a board is on a stump in (...)
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  42. Michael Tooley (ed.) (1999). Laws of Nature, Causation, and Supervenience. Garland Pub..
    condition T. Moreover, such a characterization would be perfectly compatible with the possibility of there being events that were causally related, ...
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  43. Michael Tooley (1987). Causation: A Realist Approach. Oxford University Press.
    Tooley here sets out and defends realist accounts of traditional empiricist explanations of causation and laws of nature, arguing that since reductionist accounts of causation are exposed to decisive objections, empiricists must break with that tradition.
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  44. Daniel von Wachter (2009). Die kausale Struktur der Welt: Eine philosophische Untersuchung über Verursachung, Naturgesetze, freie Handlungen, Möglichkeit und Gottes kausale Rolle in der Welt. Alber.
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  45. Christopher Weaver (2012). What Could Be Caused Must Actually Be Caused. Synthese 184 (3):299-317.
    I give two arguments for the claim that all events which occur at the actual world and are such that they could be caused, are also such that they must actually be caused. The first argument is an improvement of a similar argument advanced by Alexander Pruss, which I show to be invalid. It uses Pruss’s Brouwer Analog for counterfactual logic, and, as a consequence, implies inconsistency with Lewis’s semantics for counterfactuals. While (I suggest) this consequence may not be objectionable, (...)
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