Disjunctive causes

Journal of Philosophy 103 (10):521-538 (2006)
Abstract
There is an initial presumption against disjunctive causes. First of all, for some people causation is a relation between events. But, arguably, there are no disjunctive events, since events are particulars and thus they have spatiotemporal locations, while it is unclear what the spatiotemporal location of a disjunctive event could be.1 More importantly, even if one believes that entities like facts can enter in causal relations, and even if there are disjunctive facts, it is still hard to see how disjunctive facts could be causes. Imagine, for instance, the following scenario. I have a gun filled with red paint and another gun filled with blue paint, and I fire both guns at my neighbor’s white wall. A moment later, there is a graffiti on the wall and my neighbor notifies the police. He would have done so regardless of the graffiti’s color, since all he cares about is the existence of a graffiti on his wall. Is it plausible to claim that a disjunctive fact is a cause of his notifying the police? In particular, is it plausible to claim that he notified the police because I fired the red-paint gun or the blue-paint gun (the thought being that my firing paint of either color would have sufficed)? It seems not. The police was notified because of the actual graffiti on the wall, and the actual graffiti on the wall is made of a certain pattern of colored patches. Imagine, that, as it turns out, there are patches of both colors on the wall. Then it seems that both my firing the red-paint gun and my firing the blue-paint gun were causes of my neighbor’s notifying the police. In other words, my firing the red-paint gun and my firing the blue-paint gun jointly caused the outcome: each of them was a contributory cause of the outcome’s occurrence. On the other hand, imagine that there are only patches of one color on the wall. Then it seems that my firing only one of the guns was a cause. Either way, the disjunction fails to be a cause: either my firing the red-paint gun was a cause, or my firing the blue-paint gun was a cause, or they were both causes, but their disjunction was not..
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Citations of this work BETA
Rachael Briggs (2012). Interventionist Counterfactuals. Philosophical Studies 160 (1):139-166.
Sara Bernstein (2013). Omissions as Possibilities. Philosophical Studies 167 (1):1-23.
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