In Jessica Pfeifer & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Routledge 90--100 (2006)
Arguably no concept is more fundamental to science than that of causality, for investigations into cases of existence, persistence, and change in the natural world are largely investigations into the causes of these phenomena. Yet the metaphysics and epistemology of causality remain unclear. For example, the ontological categories of the causal relata have been taken to be objects (Hume 1739), events (Davidson 1967), properties (Armstrong 1978), processes (Salmon 1984), variables (Hitchcock 1993), and facts (Mellor 1995). (For convenience, causes and effects will usually be understood as events in what follows.) Complicating matters, causal relations may be singular (Socrates’s drinking hemlock caused Socrates’s death) or general (Drinking hemlock causes death); hence the relata might be tokens (e.g., instances of properties) or types (e.g., types of events) of the category in question. Other questions up for grabs are: Are singular causes metaphysically and/or epistemologically prior to general causes or vice versa (or neither)? What grounds the intuitive asymmetry of the causal relation? Are macro-causal relations reducible to micro-causal relations? And perhaps most importantly: Are causal facts (e.g., the holding of causal relations) reducible to non-causal facts (e.g., the holding of certain spatiotemporal relations)?
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