David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Philosophical Research 26:223-227 (2001)
According to Hume’s classical definition of causal relations, a cause must fulfill two distinct conditions: a) be a sufficient condition for the occurrence of its effect; b) be temporally prior to it. However, a careful logical analysis shows that the combination of sufficiency and temporality is impossible. This is because if a complete cause is a sufficient condition for its effect to occur-then the effect is a necessary condition for the occurrence of its own complete cause! Thus, there can be no complete cause for anything to occur, which means that causal determination is logically impossible.The paper goes on to examine some possible responses to this argument, and then concludes with a nontemporal version of the paradox that shows that even the first of Hume’s above conditions cannot be fulfilled on its own. This is because if something (e.g., the cause) is a sufficient condition of something else (e.g., the effect), then it cannot be a sufficient condition of itself
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