In Anna Marmodoro (ed.), The Metaphysics of Powers: Their Grounding and Their Manifestations. Routledge (2010)
|Abstract||It is widely agreed that many causal relations can be regarded as dependent upon causal relations that are in some way more basic. For example, knocking down the first domino in a row of one hundred dominoes will be the cause of the hundredth domino falling. But this causal relation exists in virtue of the knocking of the first domino causing the falling of the second domino, and so forth. In such a case, A causes B in virtue of there being intermediate events I1 . . . In such that A causes I1, I1 causes I2, . . . , In−1 causes In, and In causes B. Cases of this sort include my putting my foot on the brake causing the car to slow, the smoke from a fire causing the fire brigade to be alerted, and so forth. In other cases the more basic causal relations may not be intermediate (or at least it is controversial that they are). My seeing that it is raining may cause me to want to stay inside, and this causal relation depends upon more basic causal relations among various components of my brain. But it does not seem possible to analyze this in terms of my perception causing certain brain events, which cause other brain events, which eventually cause my desire. Rather it seems as if the principle causal relation, between perception and desire, is constituted, rather than mediated, by the more basic causal relations in the brain. The same is true of the operation of the dynamo causing the current to flow. Again there are not intermediate events, but rather the causal relation between them is constituted by the motion of the charged particles in the wires moving though a magnetic field, which causes an electric field, which causes the charges to move in the wire. There are thus at least two kinds of complex causal relation: the chain kind and the constitution kind. If we wish to understand causation, we need to understand the basic causal relations, at least as found in the chain kind. That is, to understand what it is for A to cause B when the latter is a causal relation of the chain kind, requires understanding what it is for the intermediate, basic causal relations to hold. In the case of a complex causal relation of the constitution kind, it is may be that understanding what it is for A and B to be causally related does not require understanding what it is for the constituting causal relations to hold..|
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