David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Mind and Language 26 (1):21-52 (2011)
How do people understand questions about cause and prevent? Some theories propose that people affirm that A causes B if A's occurrence makes a difference to B's occurrence in one way or another. Other theories propose that A causes B if some quantity or symbol gets passed in some way from A to B. The aim of our studies is to compare these theories' ability to explain judgements of causation and prevention. We describe six experiments that compare judgements for causal paths that involve a mechanism, i.e. a continuous process of transmission or exchange from cause to effect, against paths that involve no mechanism yet a change in the cause nevertheless brings about a change in the effect. Our results show that people prefer to attribute cause when a mechanism links cause to effect. In contrast, prevention is sensitive both to the presence of an interruption to a causal mechanism and to a change in the outcome in the absence of a mechanism. In this sense, ‘prevent’ means something different than ‘cause not'. We discuss the implications of our results for existing theories of causation.
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References found in this work BETA
James Woodward (2003). Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation. Oxford University Press.
Judea Pearl (2000). Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference. Cambridge University Press.
David K. Lewis (1973). Counterfactuals. Blackwell Publishers.
Wesley Salmon (1984). Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. Princeton University Press.
David K. Lewis (1983). Philosophical Papers. Oxford University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Jonathan Phillips, Jamie B. Luguri & Joshua Knobe (2015). Unifying Morality’s Influence on Non-Moral Judgments: The Relevance of Alternative Possibilities. Cognition 145:30-42.
David Rose & David Danks (2012). Causation: Empirical Trends and Future Directions. Philosophy Compass 7 (9):643-653.
Jonathan Waskan (2011). Mechanistic Explanation at the Limit. Synthese 183 (3):389-408.
James Woodward (2012). Causation: Interactions Between Philosophical Theories and Psychological Research. Philosophy of Science 79 (5):961-972.
Bridget Copley & Heidi Harley (2015). A Force-Theoretic Framework for Event Structure. Linguistics and Philosophy 38 (2):103-158.
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