|Abstract||Causation is a deeply intuitive and familiar relation, gripped powerfully by common sense. Or so it seems. But as is typical in philosophy, deep intuitive familiarity has not led to any philosophical account of causation that is at once clean, precise, and widely agreed upon. Not for lack of trying: the last 30 years or so have seen dozens of attempts to provide such an account, and the pace of development is, if anything, accelerating. (See Collins, Hall and Paul 2003a for a comprehensive sampling of the latest work.) It is safe to say that none has yet succeeded. It is also safe to say that the effort put into their development has yielded a wealth of insights into causation. And it is, arguably, from the study of causal preemption—cases that feature multiple competing candidates for the title of “cause” of some given effect—that the greatest such wealth has flowed. These cases come in a number of varieties: so-called early and late preemption, symmetric overdetermination, and trumping preemption. Collectively, they place extremely severe constraints on any philosophical account of causation that can successfully handle them. One of the lessons they have to teach, then, is a lesson about the form that a successful analysis of causation must have. There is a deeper lesson, a lesson about the nature of causation itself, or if you like, about the workings of our causal concept. It emerges from close study of the struggles that extant accounts face in trying to provide even remotely attractive treatments of causal preemption. It is this: There appears to be a significant and perhaps intractable tension between one strand in our thinking about causation—a strand that emphasizes the need for causes to be connected to their effects via intervening processes with the right intrinsic character—and another—one that emphasizes the claim that effects in some sense depend on their causes. By the end of this essay, this tension will be vividly apparent..|
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