In this paper I argue that causation is an essentially macroscopic phenomenon, and that mental causes are therefore capable of outcompeting their more specific physical realizers as causes of physical effects. But I also argue that any causes must be type-identical with physical properties, on pain of positing inexplicable physical conspiracies. I therefore allow macroscopic mental causation, but only when it is physically reducible.
My aim is twofold: first, to root out the metaphysical assumptions that generate the problem of mental causation and to show that they preclude its solution; second, to dissolve the problem of mental causation by motivating rejection of one of the metaphysical assumptions that give rise to it. There are three features of this metaphysical background picture that are important for our purposes. The first concerns the nature of reality: all reality depends on physical reality, where physical reality (...) consists of a network of events.1 The second concerns the nature of causation, and the third concerns the conception of behavior. I try to vindicate a robust idea of mental causation. (shrink)
I defend what may loosely be called an eliminativist account of causation by showing how several of the main features of causation, namely asymmetry, transitivity, and necessitation (or sometimes probability-raising), arise from the combination of fundamental dynamical laws and a special constraint on the macroscopic structure of matter in the past. At the microscopic level, the causal features of necessitation and transitivity are grounded, but not the asymmetry. At the coarse-grained level of the macroscopic physics, the causal asymmetry (...) is grounded, but not the necessitation or transitivity. Thus, at no single level of description does the physics justify the conditions that are taken to be constitutive of causation. Nevertheless, if we mix our reasoning about the microscopic and macroscopic descriptions, the structure provided by the dynamics and special initial conditions can justify the folk concept of causation to a significant extent. I explain why our causal concept works so well even though at bottom it is comprised of a patchwork of principles that don't mesh well. (shrink)
Omissions are sometimes linked to responsibility. A harm can counterfactually depend on an omission to prevent it. If someone had the ability to prevent a harm but didn’t, this could suffice to ground their responsibility for the harm. We present an argument for this based on the WGPCGR-thesis: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. -/- We argue, with reference to Moore’s account in Causation and Responsibility (Moore 2009), that moral and legal responsibility is based on the power we have (...) as causal agents, but not on causation as such. Specifically, we contend that an agent can be held responsible for an act only under certain modal conditions: if it was within their power to act but also not to act. This is a modality that is less than necessity but also more than pure contingency. It allows agents to be responsible causally for some effect when it was their action that produced it, and that agents might be responsible for something non-causally when they had the power to prevent it and failed to do so. We also maintain that agents could be non-causally responsible for something if their action was a sine qua non for something else. We conclude that allocation of moral and legal responsibility is governed by three principles: -/- a. Without the ability to do x, but also to prevent x, one cannot be responsible for doing x. b. With the ability to do x, one can (but need not necessarily) have a responsibility to do x. c. The more able one is to do x, if one should do x, then the greater the responsibility to do x. (shrink)
I argue that the two standard models of mental causation fail to capture the crucial causal relevance of the reason-giving relations involved. Their common error is an exclusively mechanical conception of causation, on which any justification is bound to be independent of the causal process involved, based upon a general rule from which the correctness of the particular case follows only by subsumption. I establish possibility of an alternative model, by sketching an account of the causal dependence of (...) perceptual knowledge upon experience in which the causal and rationalizing elements are essentially two aspects of a single integrated phenomenon. (shrink)
Non-Cartesian substance dualism (NCSD) maintains that persons or selves are distinct from their organic physical bodies and any parts of those bodies. It regards persons as ‘substances’ in their own right, but does not maintain that persons are necessarily separable from their bodies, in the sense of being capable of disembodied existence. In this paper, it is urged that NCSD is better equipped than either Cartesian dualism or standard forms of physicalism to explain the possibility of mental (...) class='Hi'>causation. A model of mental causation adopting the NCSD perspective is proposed which, it is argued, is consistent with all that is currently known about the operations of the human central nervous system, including the brain. Physicalism, by contrast, seems ill-equipped to explain the distinctively intentional or teleological character of mental causation, because it effectively reduces all such causation to ‘blind’ physical causation at a neurological level. (shrink)
Hume thought that if you believed in powers, you believed in necessary connections in nature. He was then able to argue that there were none such because anything could follow anything else. But Hume wrong-footed his opponents. A power does not necessitate its manifestations: rather, it disposes towards them in a way that is less than necessary but more than purely contingent. -/- In this paper a dispositional theory of causation is offered. Causes dispose towards their effects and often (...) produce them. But a set of causes, even though they may succeed in producing an effect, cannot necessitate it since the effect could have been counteracted by some additional power. This would require a separation of our concepts of causal production and causal necessitation. The most conspicuous cases of causation are those where powers accumulate and pass a requisite threshold for an effect to occur. -/- We develop a model for representing powers as constituent vectors within an n-dimensional quality space, where composition of causes appears as vector addition. Even our resultant vector, however, has to be understood as having dispositional force only. This model throws new light on causal modality and cases of prevention, causation by absence and probabilistic causation. (shrink)
Weak emergence has been offered as an explication of the ubiquitous notion of emergence used in complexity science (Bedau 1997). After outlining the problem of emergence and comparing weak emergence with the two other main objectivist approaches to emergence, this paper explains a version of weak emergence and illustrates it with cellular automata. Then it explains the sort of downward causation and explanatory autonomy involved in weak emergence.
The 'completeness of physics' is the key premise in the causal argument for physicalism. Standard formulations of it fail to rule out emergent downwards causation. I argue that it must do this if it is tare in a valid causal argument for physicalism. Drawing on the notion of conferring causal power, I formulate a suitable principle, 'strong completeness'. I investigate the metaphysical implications of distinguishing this principle from emergent downwards causation, and I argue that categoricalist accounts of properties (...) are better equipped to sustain the distinction than dispositional essentialist accounts. Finally, I argue that the additional evidence needed for strong completeness renders the causal argument otiose for any properties amenable to scientific reduction. (shrink)
Empirical evidence, it has often been argued, undermines our commonsense assumptions concerning the efficacy of conscious intentions. One of the most influential advocates of this challenge has been Daniel Wegner, who has presented an impressive amount of evidence in support of a model of "apparent mental causation". According to Wegner, this model provides the best explanation of numerous curious and pathological cases of behavior. Further, it seems that Benjamin Libet's classic experiment on the initiation of action and the empirical (...) evidence concerning the confabulation of reason explanations provide further support for this view. In response, I will propose an alternative model of "real mental causation" that can accommodate the empirical evidence just as well as Wegner's. Further, we will see that there is plenty of evidence in support of the assumption that intentions are causally efficacious. This will provide us with ample reason to endorse the model of real mental causation. (shrink)
Causation is one of the most important and enduring topics in philosophy, going back to Aristotle. In this important book, Helen Beebee covers all the major debates and issues in the philosophy of causation. Beginning with an introduction to the concept, Causation examines the most important philosopher of causation, David Hume, and assesses the problems of induction and necessary connection in light of Hume's thought. Beebee then investigates different theories of causation and challenges to the (...) Humane approach. She considers the concepts of regularity, causal experience, necessity, and essences. Throughout the book, she examines and critically discusses other important philosophers on causation, including JL Mackie, John Wright, and Brian Ellis. (shrink)
I provide a comprehensive metaphysics of causation based on the idea that fundamentally things are governed by the laws of physics, and that derivatively difference-making can be assessed in terms of what fundamental laws of physics imply for hypothesized events. Highlights include a general philosophical methodology, the fundamental/derivative distinction, and my mature account of causal asymmetry.
Bertrand Russell famously argued that causation is not part of the fundamental physical description of the world, describing the notion of cause as "a relic of a bygone age." This paper assesses one of Russell’s arguments for this conclusion: the ‘Directionality Argument’, which holds that the time symmetry of fundamental physics is inconsistent with the time asymmetry of causation. We claim that the coherence and success of the Directionality Argument crucially depends on the proper interpretation of the ‘time (...) symmetry’ of fundamental physics as it appears in the argument, and offer two alternative interpretations. We argue that: (1) if ‘time symmetry’ is understood as the time-reversal invariance of physical theories, then the crucial premise of the Directionality Argument should be rejected; and (2) if ‘time symmetry’ is understood as the temporally bidirectional nomic dependence relations of physical laws, then the crucial premise of the Directionality Argument is far more plausible. We defend the second reading as continuous with Russell’s writings, and consider the consequences of the bidirectionality of nomic dependence relations in physics for the metaphysics of causation. (shrink)
How can mental properties bring about physical effects, as they seem to do, given that the physical realizers of the mental goings-on are already sufficient to cause these effects? This question gives rise to the problem of mental causation (MC) and its associated threats of causal overdetermination, mental causal exclusion, and mental causal irrelevance. Some (e.g., Cynthia and Graham Macdonald, and Stephen Yablo) have suggested that understanding mental-physical realization in terms of the determinable/determinate relation (henceforth, 'determination') provides the key (...) to solving the problem of MC: if mental properties are determinables of their physical realizers, then (since determinables and determinates are distinct, yet don't causally compete) all three threats may be avoided. Not everyone agrees that determination can do this good work, however. Some (e.g., Douglas Ehring, Eric Funkhauser, and Sven Walter) object that mental-physical realization can't be determination, since such realization lacks one or other characteristic feature of determination. I argue that on a proper understanding of the features of determination key to solving the problem of MC these arguments can be resisted. (shrink)
The development of a defensible and fecund notion of emergence has been dogged by a number of threshold issues neatly highlighted in a recent paper by Jaegwon Kim. We argue that physicalist assumptions confuse and vitiate the whole project. In particular, his contention that emergence entails supervenience is contradicted by his own argument that the ‘microstructure’ of an object belongs to the whole object, not to its constituents. And his argument against the possibility of downward causation is question-begging and (...) makes false assumptions about causal sufficiency. We argue, on the contrary, for a rejection of the deeply entrenched assumption, shared by physicalists and Cartesians alike, that what basically exists are things (entities, substances). Our best physics tells us that there are no basic particulars, only fields in process. We need an ontology which gives priority to organization, which is inherently relational. Reflection upon the fact that all biological creatures are far-from-equilibrium systems, whose very persistence depend upon their interactions with their environment, reveals incoherence in the notion of an ‘emergence base’. (shrink)
The Exclusion Problem (EP) for mental causation suggests that there is a tension between the claim that the mental causes physical effects, and the claim that the mental does not overdetermine its physical effects. In response, Karen Bennett (2008, 2003) puts forward an extra necessary condition for overdetermination: if one candidate cause were to occur but the other were not to occur, the effect would still occur. She thus denies one of the assumptions of EP, the assumption that if (...) an effect has two sufficient causes, it is overdetermined. If sound, her argument does two things: it solves EP, and it shows how to use counterfactuals in order to make the notion of overdetermination precise. However, the argument is not sound. (shrink)
Tooley here sets out and defends realist accounts of traditional empiricist explanations of causation and laws of nature, arguing that since reductionist accounts of causation are exposed to decisive objections, empiricists must break with that tradition.
Key elements of Randolph Clarke's libertarian account of freedom that requires both agent-causation and non-deterministic event-causation in the production of free action is assessed with an eye toward determining whether agent-causal accounts can accommodate the truth of judgments of moral obligation.
to counterintuitive results. Suppose a mental event, m1, causes another mental event, m2. Unless the mental and the physical are completely independent, there will be a physical event in your brain or your body or the physical world as a whole that underlies this event. The mental event occurs at least partly in virtue of the physical event’s occurring. And the same goes for m2  and p2. Let’s not worry about what exactly “underlying” or “in virtue of” means here. (...) Here’s the picture. m1 -----> m2 | | p1 -----> p2 The horizontal arrows represent causation, and the vertical lines represent underlying, whatever that may be. There’s some reason to think that the only way m1 can bring about m2 is by bringing about p2. You can’t convince someone of something through mental telepathy. You need to interact with the physical world, perhaps by saying something and so making some noise, or by pointing and getting them to turn their head and see. What goes for the case of two people goes for the case of one person as well. Superstition aside, there is no purely mental energy that floats free of the merely physical workings of the brain. If m1 brings about m2 by bringing about p2, then m1 brings about p2. This is downward causation. But wait. Doesn’t p1 bring about p2? Isn’t that what the bottom arrow represents? Maybe m1 and p1 work together to bring about p2. There are little holes in the physical causal structure that need to be filled by mental events. You don’t need a sweeping metaphysical thesis about the causal closure of the physical to find this implausible. Maybe p2 is overdetermined. (shrink)
Several theories of emergence will be distinguished. In particular, these are synchronic, diachronic, and weak versions of emergence. While the weaker theories are compatible with property reductionism, synchronic emergentism and strong versions of diachronic emergentism are not. Synchronice mergentism is of particular interest for the discussion of downward causation. For such a theory, a system's property is taken to be emergent if it is irreducible, i.e., if it is not reductively explainable. Furthermore, we have to distinguish two different types (...) of irreducibility with quite different consequences: If, on the one hand, a system's property is irreducible because of the irreducibility of the system's parts' behavior on which the property supervenes, we seem to have a case of "downward causation". This kind of downward causation does not violate the principle of the causal closure of the physical domain. If, on the other hand, a systemic property is irreducible because it is not exhaustively analyzable in terms of its causal role, downward causation is not implied. Rather, it is dubitable how unanalyzable properties might play any causal role at all. Thus, epiphenomenalism seems to be implied. The failure to keep apart the two kinds of irreducibility has muddled recent debate about the emergence of properties considerably. (shrink)
Argument for Epiphenomenalism [I]: (A) Mental event-tokens are identical with physical event-tokens. (B) The causal powers of a physical event are determined only by its physical properties; and (C) mental properties are not reducible to physical properties.
The problem of freedom and determinism has vexed philosophers for several millennia, and continues to be a topic of lively debate today. One of the proposed solutions to the problem that has received a great deal of attention is the Theory of Agent Causation. While the theory has enjoyed its share of advocates, and perhaps more than its share of critics, the theory’s advocates and critics have always agreed on one thing: the Theory of Agent Causation is an (...) incompatibilist theory. That is, both believers and nonbelievers in the theory have taken it for granted that the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is one according to which freedom and determinism are incompatible. In fact, so entrenched is this assumption that no one on either side of the debate has ever questioned it. Yet it turns out that this assumption is wrong – the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is a compatibilist one. (shrink)
Recent discussions of mental causation have focused on three principles: (1) Mental properties are (sometimes) causally relevant to physical effects; (2) mental properties are not physical properties; (3) every physical event has in its causal history only physical events and physical properties. Since these principles seem to be inconsistent, solutions have focused on rejecting one or more of them. But I argue that, in spite of appearances, (1)–(3) are not inconsistent. The reason is that 'properties' is used in different (...) senses in the principles. In (1) and (3), 'properties' should be read as 'tropes' (properties here are particulars), while in (2) 'properties' should read as 'types' (properties here are universals or classes). Although mental types are distinct from physical types, every mental trope is a physical trope. This allows mental properties to be causally relevant to physical effects without violating the closed character of the physical world. (shrink)
The paper argues that mental causation can be explained from the sufficiency of counterfactual dependence for causation together with relatively weak assumptions about the metaphysics of mind. If a physical event counterfactually depends on an earlier physical event, it also counterfactually depends on, and hence is caused by, a mental event that correlates with (or supervenes on) this earlier physical event, provided that this correlation (or supervenience) is sufficiently modally robust. This account of mental causation is consistent (...) with the overdetermination of physical events by mental events and other physical events, but does not entail it. (shrink)
We investigate whether standard counterfactual analyses of causation (CACs) imply that the outcomes of space-like separated measurements on entangled particles are causally related. Although it has sometimes been claimed that standard CACs imply such a causal relation, we argue that a careful examination of David Lewis’s influential counterfactual semantics casts doubt on this. We discuss ways in which Lewis’s semantics and standard CACs might be extended to the case of space-like correlations. 1 Introduction2 Measurement Outcomes and Counterfactual Analyses of (...) Causation3 Lewis’s Analysis 1 of Counterfactuals (‘Asymmetry-by-Fiat’)3.1 Analysis 13.2 A frame-relative reading of Analysis 13.3 Frame-invariant readings of Analysis 13.4 Discussion4 Lewis’s Analysis 2 of Counterfactuals (‘Closest Worlds’)5 Extending the Everyday Concept of Cause6 Conclusion. (shrink)
In contemporary literature, the fact that there is negative causation is the primary motivation for rejecting the physical connection view, and arguing for alternative accounts of causation. In this paper we insist that such a conclusion is too fast. We present two frameworks, which help the proponent of the physical connection view to resist the anti-connectionist conclusion. According to the first framework, there are positive causal claims, which co-refer with at least some negative causal claims. According to the (...) second framework, negative causal claims are generated from mapping and comparing different scenarios, which can fully be accounted for in purely positive terms. Since the positive causal claims evoked by both frameworks pose no obvious difficulties for the physical connection view, these frameworks make it possible for the connectionists to accommodate negative causal claims into their theory. Once these strategies are available, the connectionists become able to render all the arguments starting from the observation that there are negative causal claims in our causal discourse inconclusive with regard to the viability of the physical connection view. (shrink)
Argues that there can be interaction without breaking physical laws: e.g. by basic psychic forces, or by varying physical constants, or especially by arranging fractal trees of physical causation leading to behavior.
This critical notice highlights the important contributions that Eric Watkins's writings have made to our understanding of theories about causation developed in eighteenth-century German philosophy and by Kant in particular. Watkins provides a convincing argument that central to Kant's theory of causation is the notion of a real ground or causal power that is non-Humean (since it doesn't reduce to regularities or counterfactual dependencies among events or states) and non-Leibnizean because it doesn't reduce to logical or conceptual relations. (...) However, we raise questions about Watkins's more specific claims that Kant completely rejects a model on which the first relatum of a phenomenal causal relation is an event and that he maintains that real grounds are metaphysically and not just epistemically indeterminate. -/- . (shrink)
I survey recent work on mental causation. The discussion is conducted under the twin presumptions that mental states, including especially what subjects believe and desire, causally explain what subjects do, and that the physical sciences can in principle give a complete explanation for each and every bodily movement. I start with sceptical discussions of various views that hold that, in some strong sense, the causal explanations offered by psychology are autonomous with respect to those offered by the physical sciences. (...) I then proceed to views that see the problem of mental causation as that of identifying where in the physical story about us and our world lie the parts that in effect tell us abut mental causation - the kind of position that is pretty much standard in the cognitive science community - and consider issues raised by various forms of functionalism and externalism. The general thrust of my discussion is sympathetic to the story about mental causation suggested by those type-type versions of the mind-brain identity theory that allow for the possiblity of multiple realisability. I include a brief discussion of how a map-system account of belief, by contrast with a language of thought one, should understand explanations of behaviour in terms of what a subject believes. (shrink)
Abstract: It is generally accepted that the most serious threat to the possibility of mental causation is posed by the causal self-sufficiency of physical causal processes. I argue, however, that this feature of the world, which I articulate in principle I call Completeness, in fact poses no genuine threat to mental causation. Some find Completeness threatening to mental causation because they confuse it with a stronger principle, which I call Closure. Others do not simply conflate Completeness (...) and Closure, but hold that Completeness, together with certain plausible assumptions, _entails_ Closure. I refute the most fully worked-out version of such an argument. Finally, some find Completeness all by itself threatening to mental causation. I argue that one will only find Completeness threatening if one operates with a philosophically distorted conception of mental causation. I thereby defend what I call naïve realism about mental causation. (shrink)
One part of the true theory of actual causation is a set of conditions responsible for eliminating all of the non-causes of an effect that can be discerned at the level of counterfactual structure. I defend a proposal for this part of the theory.
The purpose of this paper is to lay bare the major problems underlying the concept of downward causation as discussed within the perspective of the present interest for phenomena that are characterized by self-organization. In our Discussion of the literature, we have focussed on two questions: (1) What sorts of things are said to be, respectively, causing and caused within the context of downward causation? And (2) What is the meaning of 'causing' in downward causation? We have (...) concluded that the concept of 'downward causation' is muddled with regard to the meaning of causation and fuzzy with regard to the nature of the causes and the effects. Moreover, we have concluded that 'causation' in respect of 'downward causation' is usually understood in terms of explanation and determination rather than in terms of causation in the sense of 'bringing about'. Thus, the term 'downward causation' is badly chosen. (shrink)
In my article I evaluate Searle's account of mental causation, in particular his account of the causal efficacy of unconscious intentional states. I argue that top-down causation and overdetermination are unsolved problems in Searle's philosophy of mind, despite his assurances to the contrary. I also argue that there are conflicting claims involved in his account of mental causation and his account of the unconscious. As a result, it becomes impossible to understand how unconscious intentional states can be (...) causally efficacious. My conclusion will be that if Searle's conception of unconscious intentionality is to play a genuine role in the causal explanation of human action, it needs to be rethought. (shrink)
Here is a simple counterexample to David Lewis’s causal influence account of causation, one that is especially illuminating due to its connection to what Lewis himself writes: it is a variant of his trumping example.
A major criticism of David Lewis’ counterfactual theory of causation is that it allows too many things to count as causes, especially since Lewis allows, in addition to events, absences to be causes as well. Peter Menzies has advanced this concern under the title “the problem of profligate causation.” In this paper, I argue that the problem of profligate causation provides resources for exposing a tension between Lewis’ acceptance of absence causation and his modal realism. The (...) result is a different problem of profligate causation—one that attacks the internal consistency of Lewisian metaphysics rather than employing common sense judgments or intuitions that conflict with Lewis’ extensive list of causes. (shrink)
Causation is important. It is, as Hume said, the cement of the universe, and lies at the heart of our conceptual structure. Causation is one of the most fundamental tools we have for organizing our apprehension of the external world and ourselves. But philosophers' disagreement about the correct interpretation of causation is as limitless as their agreement about its importance. The history of attempts to elucidate the nature of this concept and to situate it with respect to (...) other fundamental concepts is almost as long as the history of philosophy itself. In this first English translation of Causalite; et lois de la nature Max Kistler seeks to reconstruct a unified concept of causation that is general enough to adequately deal with both elementary physical processes and the macroscopic level of phenomena we encounter in everyday life. It will be of great interest to philosophers of science and metaphysics; and also to students and scholars of philosophy of mind where concepts of causation and law play a prominent role. (shrink)
In this paper I suggest a new interpretation of the relations of inherence, causation and conception in Spinoza. I discuss the views of Don Garrett on this issue and argue against Della Rocca's recent suggestion that a strict endorsement of the PSR leads necessarily to the identification of the relations of inherence, causation and conception. I argue that (1) Spinoza never endorsed this identity, and (2) that Della Rocca's suggestion could not be considered as a legitimate reconstruction or (...) friendly amendment to Spinoza's system because it creates several severe and irresolvable problems in the system. -/- In the first part of the paper, I present the considerations and arguments that motivated Don Garrett's and Della Rocca's interpretations. In the second part, I present and examine several problems that result from Della Rocca's reading. In the third and final part, I (1) present my own view on the relation among inherence, causation, and conception; (2) offer a new interpretation of the conceived through relation in Spinoza; and finally, (3) defend and justify the presence of (non-arbitrary) bifurcations at the very center of Spinoza's system. (shrink)
It is widely supposed that David Hume invented and espoused the "regularity" theory of causation, holding that causal relations are nothing but a matter of one type of thing being regularly followed by another. It is also widely supposed that he was not only right about this, but that it was one of his greatest contributions to philosophy. Strawson here argues that the regularity theory of causation is indefensible, and that Hume never adopted it in any case. Strawson (...) maintains that Hume did not claim that causation in the natural world is just a matter of regular succession, that such a dogmatic metaphysical claim about the nature of reality would have been utterly contrary to his fundamental philosophical principles, and that he rightly took it for granted that there was more to causation than regularity of succession, claiming only that regularity of succession was all that we could ever know of causation. (shrink)
An influential tradition in the philosophy of causation has it that all token causal facts are, or are reducible to, facts about difference-making. Challenges to this tradition have typically focused on pre-emption cases, in which a cause apparently fails to make a difference to its effect. However, a novel challenge to the difference-making approach has recently been issued by Alyssa Ney. Ney defends causal foundationalism, which she characterizes as the thesis that facts about difference-making depend upon facts about physical (...)causation. She takes this to imply that causation is not fundamentally a matter of difference-making. In this paper, I defend the difference-making approach against Ney’s argument. I also offer some positive reasons for thinking, pace Ney, that causation is fundamentally a matter of difference-making. (shrink)
Two concepts of supervenience, "strong supervenience" and "weak supervenience," are characterized and contrasted, And their major properties established. Supervenience as commonly characterized by philosophers is shown to correspond to weak supervenience, Whereas the intended concept is often the stronger relation. Strong supervenience is applied to explicate the notion of "supervenient causation," and it is argued that macro-Causal relations can be understood as cases of supervenient causation, And that causal relations involving psychological events, Too, Can be so understood.
According to Roger Scruton, it is not possible for photographs to be representational art. Most responses to Scruton’s scepticism are versions of the claim that Scruton disregards the extent to which intentionality features in photography; but these cannot force him to give up his notion of the ideal photograph. My approach is to argue that Scruton has misconstrued the role of causation in his discussion of photography. I claim that although Scruton insists that the ideal photograph is defined by (...) its ‘merely causal’ provenance, in fact he fails to take the causal provenance of photographs seriously enough. To replace Scruton’s notion of the ideal photograph, I offer a substantive account of the causal provenance of photographs, centred on the distinctive role of ‘the photographic event’. I conclude that, with a proper understanding of the photographic process, we have good reason to re-open the question of photography as a representational art. (shrink)
Despite the fact that the nature of the properties of causation is rarely discussed within the mental causation debate, the implicit assumption is that they are universals as opposed to tropes. However, in recent literature on the problem of mental causation, a new solution has emerged which aims to address the problem by appealing to tropes. It is argued that if the properties of causation are tropes rather than universals, then a psychophysical reductionism can be advanced (...) which does not face the problem of multiple realizability. However, the 'trope solution' rests upon the assumption that one can combine a trope monism with a type dualism. I argue that such a combination cannot be allowed. Given a plausible interpretation of types within a trope ontology, trope monism in fact entails type monism. Consequently, if one identifies mental tropes with physical tropes, one must also identify mental and physical types and in doing so face a modified version of the multiple realizability argument. (shrink)
Michael Tooley presents a major new philosophical theory of the nature of time, offering a powerful alternative to the traditional "tensed" and recent "tenseless" accounts of time. He argues for a dynamic conception of the universe, in which past, present, and future are not merely subjective features of experience. He claims that the past and the present are real, while the future is not. Tooley's approach accounts for time in terms of causation. He therefore claims that the key to (...) understanding the dynamic nature of the universe is to understand the nature of causation. Time, Tense, and Causation is a landmark treatment of one of the oldest and most perplexing intellectual problems, and will be fascinating reading for anyone interested in the character of time. (shrink)
An actual cause of some token effect is itself a (distinct) token event (or fact, or state of affairs, …) that helped to bring about that effect. The notion of an actual cause is different from that of a potential cause – for example a pre-empted backup – which had the capacity to bring about the effect, but which wasn't in fact operative on the occasion in question. Sometimes actual causes are also distinguished from mere background conditions: as when we (...) judge that the struck match was a cause of the fire, while the presence of oxygen was merely part of the relevant background against which the struck match operated. Actual causation is also to be distinguished from type causation: actual causation holds between token events in a particular, concrete scenario; type causation, by contrast, holds between event kinds in scenario kinds. (shrink)
It is commonplace to distinguish between propositional justification (having good reasons for believing p) and doxastic justification (believing p on the basis of those good reasons).One necessary requirement for bridging the gap between S’s merely having propositional justification that p and S’s having doxastic justification that p is that S base her belief that p on her reasons (propositional justification).A plausible suggestion for what it takes for S’s belief to be based on her reasons is that her reasons must contribute (...) causally to S’s having that belief. Though this suggestion is plausible, causal accounts of the basing relation that have been proposed have not fared well. In particular, cases involving causal deviancy and cases involving over-determination have posed serious problems for causal accounts of the basing relation. Although previous causal accounts of the basing relation seem to fall before these problems, it is possible to construct an acceptable causal account of the basing relation. That is, it is possible to construct a causal account of the basing relation that not only fits our intuitions about doxastic justification in general, but also is not susceptible to the problems posed by causal deviancy and causal over-determination. The interventionist account of causation provides the tools for constructing such an account. My aim is to make use of the insights of the interventionist account of causation to develop and defend an adequate causal account of the basing relation. (shrink)
A collection of new essays on causation in the period from Galileo to Lady Mary Shepherd (roughly 1600-1850). Contributors: David Wootton, Tad Schmaltz, William Eaton and Robert Higgerson, Eric Schliesser, Pauline Phemister, Timothy Stanton, Peter Millican, Constantine Sandis, Boris Hennig, Angela Breitenbach, Stathis Psillos, and Martha Brandt Bolton.
In an attempt to improve upon Alexander Pruss’s work (2006, pp. 240-248), I (Weaver, 2012) have argued that if all purely contingent events could be caused and something like a Lewisian analysis of causation is true (per Lewis, 2004), then all purely contingent events have causes. I dubbed the derivation of the universality of causation the “Lewisian argument”. The Lewisian argument assumed not a few controversial metaphysical theses, particularly essentialism, an incommunicable-property view of essences (per Plantinga 2003), and (...) the idea that counterfactual dependence is necessary for causation. There are, of course, substantial objections to such theses. While I think a fight against objections to the Lewisian argument can be won, I develop, in what follows, a much more intuitive argument for the universality of causation which takes as its inspiration a result from Frederic Fitch’s work (1963) (with credit to who we now know was Alonzo Church (2009)) that if all truths are such that they are knowable, then (counter-intuitively) all truths are known. The resulting Church-Fitch proof for the universality of causation is preferable to the Lewisian argument since it rests upon far weaker formal and metaphysical assumptions than those of the Lewisian argument. (shrink)
Conception and causation are fundamental notions in Spinoza's metaphysics. I argue against the orthodox view that, due to the causal axiom, if one thing is conceived through another thing, then the second thing causes the first thing. My conclusion forces us to rethink Spinoza's entitlement to some of his core commitments, including the principle of sufficient reason, the parallelism doctrine and the conatus doctrine.