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)
A combination of process and counterfactual theories of causation is proposed with the aim of preserving the strengths of each of the approaches while avoiding their shortcomings. The basis for the combination, or hybrid, view is the need, common to both accounts, of imposing a stability requirement on the causal relation.
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)
Many researchers consider cancer to have molecular causes, namely mutated genes that result in abnormal cell proliferation (e.g. Weinberg 1998). For others, the causes of cancer are to be found not at the molecular level but at the tissue level where carcinogenesis consists of disrupted tissue organization with downward causation effects on cells and cellular components (e.g. Sonnenschein and Soto 2008). In this contribution, I ponder how to make sense of such downward causation claims. Adopting a manipulationist account (...) of causation (Woodward 2003), I propose a formal definition of downward causation and discuss further requirements (in light of Baumgartner 2009). I then show that such an account cannot be mobilized in support of non-reductive physicalism (contrary to Raatikainen 2010). However, I also argue that such downward causation claims might point at particularly interesting dynamic properties of causal relationships that might prove salient in characterizing causal relationships (following Woodward 2010). (shrink)
I propose a non-Humean theory of causation with “tendencies” as causal connections. Not, however, as “necessary connexions”: causes are not sufficient, they do not necessitate their effects. The theory is designed to be, not an analysis of the concept of causation, but a description of what is the case in typical cases of causa-tion. I therefore call it a metaphysical theory of causation, as opposed to a semantic one.
The thesis is defended that the theories of causation, time and space, and levels of reality are mutually interrelated in such a way that the difficulties internal to theories of causation and to theories of space and time can be understood better, and perhaps dealt with, in the categorial context furnished by the theory of the levels of reality. The structural condition for this development to be possible is that the first two theories be opportunely generalized.
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.
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)
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)
Speculative logical theory, as provided in Hegel’s Science of Logic, consists of three main parts: the logic of being, the logic of essence, and the logic of the concept. The peculiar character of each logic’s starting-point determines the most general character of each logic’s development. The essay aims at making explicit the character of the starting-point of the third logic, the logic of the concept. This starting-point is exemplified by the category of universality. It is shown (a) that the (...) fundamental determination of this category is the harmonious unity of self-identity and full determinacy and (b) that this unity has necessarily the logical structure of “double shining.” The latter is described in detail and justification is provided as to why it is preferred from “single shining.” I conclude the paper by defending the structure of “double shining” against certain objections raised against it by F. Shick and C. Iber. (shrink)
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)
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)
Hitchcock (2001a) argues that the distinction between singular and general causation conflates the two distinctions ‘actual causation vs. causal tendencies’ and ‘wide vs. narrow causation’. Based on a recent regularity account of causation I will show that Hitchcock’s introduction of the two distinctions is an unnecessary multiplication of causal concepts.
Although the success of Habermas’s theory of communicative action depends on his dialogical model of understanding in which a theorist is supposed to participate in the debate with the actors as a ‘virtual participant’ and seek context-transcendent truth through the exchange of speech acts, current literature on the theory of communicative action rarely touches on the difficulties it entails. In the first part of this paper, I will examine Habermas’s argument that understanding other cultural practices requires the interpreter to virtually (...) participate in the “dialogue” with the actors as to the rationality of their cultural practice and discuss why, according to Habermas,such dialogue leads to the “context-transcendent truth”. In the second part, by using a concrete historical example, I will reconstruct a “virtual dialogue” between Habermas and Michael Polanyi as to the rationality of scientific practice and indicate why Habermas’s dialogical model of understanding based on the methodology of virtual participation cannot achieve what it professes to do. (shrink)
In this thesis, I give a metascientific account of causality in medicine. I begin with two historical cases of causal discovery. These are the discovery of the causation of Burkitt’s lymphoma by the Epstein-Barr virus, and of the various viral causes suggested for cervical cancer. These historical cases then support a philosophical discussion of causality in medicine. This begins with an introduction to the Russo- Williamson thesis (RWT), and discussion of a range of counter-arguments against it. Despite these, I (...) argue that the RWT is historically workable, given a small number of modifications. I then expand Russo and Williamson’s account. I first develop their suggestion that causal relationships in medicine require some kind of evidence of mechanism. I begin with a number of accounts of mechanisms and produce a range of consensus features of them. I then develop this consensus position by reference to the two historical case studies with an eye to their operational competence. In particular, I suggest that it is mechanistic models and their representations which we are concerned with in medicine, rather than the mechanism as it exists in the world. -/- I then employ these mechanistic models to give an account of the sorts of evidence used in formulating and evaluating causal claims. Again, I use the two human viral oncogenesis cases to give this account. I characterise and distinguish evidence of mechanism from evidence of difference-making, and relate this to mechanistic models. I then suggest the relationship between types of evidence presents us with a means of tackling the reference-class problem. This sets the scene for the final chapter. Here, I suggest the manner in which these two different classes of evidence become integrated is also reflected in the way that developing research programmes change as their associated causal claims develop. (shrink)
The paper takes issue with a widely accepted view of mental causation. This is the view that mental causation is either reducible to physical causation or ultimately untenable, because incompatible with the causal completeness of physics. The paper examines, first, why recent attempts to save the phenomena of mental causation by way of the notion of supervenient causation fail. The result of this examination is the claim that any attempted specification of the most basic causal (...) factors which supposedly underlie a causal transaction cannot account for the counterfactually necessary connections with the effect in question. By contrast, the specification of these factors at a higher-level would allow establishing such connections. The paper closes with a discussion of how this view of autonomous ligher-level causation grounded on counterfactual relations can be made compatible with the physicalistic commitment to a complete specification of the particular causes of any physical effect exclusively in physical terms. (shrink)
One of the most striking features of causation is that causes typically precede their effects – the causal arrow is strongly aligned with the temporal arrow. Why should this be so? We offer an opinionated guide to this problem, and to the solutions currently on offer. We conclude that the most promising strategy is to begin with the de facto asymmetry of human deliberation, characterised in epistemic terms, and to build out from there. More than any rival, this subjectivist (...) approach promises to demystify the asymmetry, temporal orientation, and deliberative relevance of causal judgements. (shrink)
The explanatory role of natural selection is one of the long-term debates in evolutionary biology. Nevertheless, the consensus has been slippery because conceptual confusions and the absence of a unified, formal causal model that integrates different explanatory scopes of natural selection. In this study we attempt to examine two questions: (i) What can the theory of natural selection explain? and (ii) Is there a causal or explanatory model that integrates all natural selection explananda? For the first question, we argue that (...) five explananda have been assigned to the theory of natural selection and that four of them may be actually considered explananda of natural selection. For the second question, we claim that a probabilistic conception of causality and the statistical relevance concept of explanation are both good models for understanding the explanatory role of natural selection. We review the biological and philosophical disputes about the explanatory role of natural selection and formalize some explananda in probabilistic terms using classical results from population genetics. Most of these explananda have been discussed in philosophical terms but some of them have been mixed up and confused. We analyze and set the limits of these problems. (shrink)
In this paper I offer an 'integrating account' of singular causation, where the term 'integrating' refers to the following program for analysing causation. There are two intuitions about causation, both of which face serious counterexamples when used as the basis for an analysis of causation. The 'process' intuition, which says that causes and effects are linked by concrete processes, runs into trouble with cases of 'misconnections', where an event which serves to prevent another fails to do (...) so on a particular occasion and yet the two events are linked by causal processes. The chance raising intuition, according to which causes raise the chance of their effects, easily accounts for misconnections but faces the problem of chance lowering causes, a problem easily accounted for by the process approach. The integrating program attempts to provide an analysis of singular causation by synthesising the two insights, so as to solve both problems. In this paper I show that extant versions of the integrating program due to Eells, Lewis, and Menzies fail to account for the chance-lowering counterexample. I offer a new diagnosis of the chance lowering case, and use that as a basis for an integrating account of causation which does solve both cases. In doing so, I accept various assumptions of the integrating program, in particular that there are no other problems with these two approaches. As an example of the process account, I focus on the recent CQ theory of Wesley Salmon (1997). (shrink)
A typical thesis of contemporary materialism holds that mental properties and events supervene on, without being reducible to, physical properties and events. Many philosophers have grown skeptical about the causal efficacy of irreducibly supervenient properties, however, and one of the main reasons is an assumption about causation which Jaegwon Kim calls the causal exclusion principle. I argue here that this principle runs afoul of cases of genuine causal overdetermination.Many would argue that causal overdetermination is impossible anyway, but a careful (...) analysis of these arguments shows them to be misguided. Finally, I examine the reasons given in support of the causal exclusion principle, and I conclude that it is plausible if, and probably only if, a certain view of the nature of causation turns out to be correct. Since that view of causation is unacceptable to nonreductivists on other grounds, however, it turns out that exclusion-based arguments essentially beg the question. (shrink)
Jewish ethics like Judaism itself has often been charged with being "particularistic," and in modernity it has been unfavorably compared with the universality of secular ethics. This charge has become acute philosophically when the comparison is made with the ethics of Kant. However, at this level, much of the ethical rejection of Jewish particularism, especially its being beholden to a God who is above the universe to whom this God prescribes moral norms and judges according to them, is also (...) a rejection of Christian (or any other monotheistic) ethics, no matter how otherwise universal. Yet this essay argues that Jewish ethics that prescribes norms for all humans, and that is knowable by all humans, actually constitutes a wider moral universe than does Kantian ethics, because it can include non-rational human objects and even non-human objects altogether. This essay also argues that a totally egalitarian moral universe, encompassing all human relations, becomes an infinite, totalizing universe, which can easily become the ideological justification (ratio essendi) of a totalitarian regime. (shrink)
This article presents Roman Ingarden’s theory of causation, as developed in volume III of The Controversy about the Existence of the World, and defends analternative which uses some important insights of Ingarden. It rejects Ingarden’s claim that a cause is simultaneous with its effect and that a cause necessitates its effect. It uses Ingarden’s notion of ‘inclinations’ and accepts Ingarden’s claim that an event cannot necessitate a later event.
permits a sound and rigorously definable notion of ‘originating cause’ or causa causans—a type of transition event—of an outcome event. Mackie has famously suggested that causes form a family of ‘inus’ conditions, where an inus condition is ‘an insufficient but non-redundant part of an unnecessary but sufficient condition’. In this essay the needed concepts of BST theory are developed in detail, and it is then proved that the causae causantes of a given outcome event have exactly the structure of a (...) set of Mackie inus conditions. The proof requires the assumption that there is no EPR-like ‘funny business’. This seems enough to constitute a theory of ‘causation’ in at least one of its many senses. Introduction The cement of the universe Preliminaries 3.1 First definitions and postulates 3.2 Ontology: propositions 3.3 Ontology: initial events 3.4 Ontology: outcome events 3.5 Ontology: transition events 3.6 Propositional language applied to events Causae causantes 4.1 Causae causantes are basic primary transition events 4.2 Causae causantes of an outcome chain 4.3 No funny business Causae causantes and inns and inus conditions 5.1 Inns conditions of outcome chains: not quite 5.2 Inns conditions of outcome chains 5.3 Inns conditions of scattered outcome events 5.4 Inus conditions for disjunctive outcome events 5.5 Inns and inus conditions of transition events Counterfactual conditionals Appendix: Tense and modal connectives in BST. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to defend the causal efficacy of consciousness against two specters of epiphenomenalism. We argue that these challenges are best met, on the one hand, by rejecting all forms of consciousness-body dualism, and on the other, by adopting a dynamical systems approach to understanding the causal efficacy of conscious experience. We argue that this non-reductive identity theory provides the theoretical resources for reconciling the reality and efficacy of consciousness with the neurophysiology of the brain and (...) body. (shrink)
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)
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.
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)
Is the common cause principle merely one of a set of useful heuristics for discovering causal relations, or is it rather a piece of heavy duty metaphysics, capable of grounding the direction of causation itself? Since the principle was introduced in Reichenbach’s groundbreaking work The Direction of Time (1956), there have been a series of attempts to pursue the latter program—to take the probabilistic relationships constitutive of the principle of the common cause and use them to ground the direction (...) of causation. These attempts have not all explicitly appealed to the principle as originally formulated; it has also appeared in the guise of independence conditions, counterfactual overdetermination, and, in the causal modelling literature, as the causal markov condition. In this paper, I identify a set of difficulties for grounding the asymmetry of causation on the principle and its descendents. The first difficulty, concerning what I call the vertical placement of causation, consists of a tension between considerations that drive towards the macroscopic scale, and considerations that drive towards the microscopic scale—the worry is that these considerations cannot both be comfortably accommodated. The second difficulty consists of a novel potential counterexample to the principle based on the familiar Einstein Podolsky Rosen (EPR) correlations in quantum mechanics. (shrink)
Given certain well-known observations by Mach and Russell, the question arises what place there is for causation in the physical world. My aim in this chapter is to understand under what conditions we can use causal terminology and how it fi ts in with what physics has to say. I will argue for a disposition-based process-theory of causation. After addressing Mach’s and Russell’s concerns I will start by outlining the kind of problem the disposition based process-theory of (...) class='Hi'>causation is meant to solve. In a second step I will discuss the nature of those dispositions that will be relevant for our question. In section 3 I will discuss existing dispositional accounts of causation before I proceed to present my own account (sections 4 to 6) and contrast it with traditional process-theories (section 7). (shrink)
The Agency and the Manipulability theory of causation, in spite of significant differences, share at least three claims. First, that manipulation – roughly, that by manipulating causes we bring about effects – is a central notion for causation; second, that such a notion of manipulation allows a reductive – i.e. general and comprehensive – account of causation; third, that this view has its forefathers in the works of Collingwood, Gasking and von Wright. This paper mainly challenges the (...) third claim and argues that the misreading of those authors leads to a more dangerous consequence: a confusion between epistemological, metaphysical and methodological issues about causation. (shrink)
Mellor´s theory of causation has two components, one according to which causes raise their effects´ chances, and one according to which causation links facts. I argue that these two components are not independent from each other and, in particular, that Mellor´s thesis that causation links facts requires his thesis that causes raise their effects´ chances, since without the latter thesis Mellor cannot stop the slingshot argument, an argument that is a threat to any theory postulating facts as (...) the relata of causation. (shrink)
A theory of causation with ‘tendencies’ as causal con- nections is proposed. Not, however, as ‘necessary connec- tions’: causes are not sufficient, they do not necessitate their effects. The theory is not an analysis of the concept of causation, but a description of what is the case in typical cases of causation. Therefore it does not strictly contradict any analysis of the concept of causation, not even reduct- ive ones. It would even be supported by a (...) counterfactual or a probabilistic analysis. (shrink)
Many contemporary philosophers of physics (and philosophers of science more generally) follow Bertrand Russell in arguing that there is no room for causal notions in physics. Causation, as James Woodward has put it, has a ‘human face’, which makes causal notions sit ill with fundamental theories of physics. In this paper I examine a range of anti-causal arguments and show that the human face of causation is the face of scientific representations much more generally. Physics, like other sciences, (...) is deeply permeated with causal reasoning. (shrink)
This book introduces the reader to Whitehead’s complex and often misunderstood metaphysics by showing that it deals with questions about the nature of causation originally raised by the philosophy of Leibniz. Whitehead’s philosophy is an attempt at rehabilitating Leibniz’s theory of monads by recasting it in terms of novel ontological categories.
In this essay the authors explore the nature of efficient causal explanation in Newton’s "Principia and The Opticks". It is argued that: (1) In the dynamical explanations of the Principia, Newton treats the phenomena under study as cases of Hall’s second kind of atypical causation. The underlying concept of causation is therefore a purely interventionist one. (2) In the descriptions of his optical experiments, Newton treats the phenomena under study as cases of Hall’s typical causation. The underlying (...) concept of causation is therefore a mixed interventionist/mechanicist one. (shrink)
ThomasBrown (1778-1820) was one of the tail-enders of the Scottish Enlightenment. He shared with Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) the chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1810 until his premature death in 1820. He is sometimes classed with the Scottish common-sense philosophers and, to some extent at least, his basic philosophical principles were akin to those of the common-sense philosophy. He did, for instance, forfeit the issue of the justification of some of our most basic (...) beliefs and rested them, instead, on their being intuitively irresistible; in particular, he thought that some of our most basic beliefs could be seen as permanent principles of human nature—a claim made popular by Thomas Reid. Based on his theory of the workings of the human mind—which was developed in a course of lectures on the philosophy of mind presented at the University of Edinburgh and appeared posthumously as a book titled Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind—some philosophers and psychologists have characterised him as an ‘associationist’.1 Brown’s main contribution to the philosophy of causation was his book Inquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect, published in 1818. This is, actually, the third (substantially enlarged and developed) edition of his little book titled Observations on.. (shrink)
The key idea of the interventionist account of causation is that a variable A causes a variable B if and only if B would change if A were manipulated in an appropriate way. I argue that Woodward’s (Making things happen. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003) version of interventionism does not provide a sufficient condition for causation, insofar as it is not adequate for manipulations grounded on association laws. Such laws, which express relations of mutual dependence between variables, ground (...) manipulative relationships which are not causal. I suggest that the interventionist analysis is sufficient for nomological dependence rather than for causation. (shrink)
If we seek to analyse causation in terms of counterfactual conditionals then we must assume that there is a class of counterfactuals whose members (i) are all and only those we need to support our judgements of causation, (ii) have truth-conditions specifiable without any irreducible appeal to causation. I argue that (i) and (ii) are unlikely to be met by any counterfactual analysis of causation. I demonstrate this by isolating a class of counterfactuals called non-projective counterfactuals, (...) or NP-counterfactuals, and indicate how counterfactual analyses of causation must appeal to them to account for the correct causal judgements we make. I show that the truth-conditions of NP-counterfactuals are specifiable only by irreducible appeal to causation. A dilemma then holds: if counterfactual analyses of causation eschew appeal to NP-counterfactuals they are empirically inadequate, but if they appeal to NP-counterfactuals they are circular and thus conceptually inadequate. (shrink)
In The Secret Connexion1 Galen Strawson argues against the traditional interpretation of Hume, according to which Hume’s theory of meaning leads him to a regularity theory of causation. In actual fact, says Strawson, ‘Hume believes firmly in some sort of natural necessity’ (p. 277). What Hume denied was that we are aware of causal connections outrunning regular succession, and that we have a ‘positively or descriptively contentful conception’ of such powers (p. 283); he did not deny that there are (...) such powers, or that they are what we are talking about when we talk about causation. Strawson has four central lines of argument. His ‘most direct evidence’ (p. 2) against a regularity interpretation consists of (1) passages where Hume refers to hidden powers underlying the regularities of which we are aware. Strawson’s broader motivations for rejecting the traditional interpretation are (2) that the regularity theory is in itself quite absurd, and (3) that it is incompatible with Hume’s ‘non-committal scepticism’. And the method which he uses to defend his interpretation against pressure from the theory of ideas is (4) to develop some comments of Hume’s on ‘relative’ ideas into something like a further theory of content to supplement the theory of ideas. Strawson develops almost the strongest case I can imagine for his claims. I shall try to explain why he leaves me unconvinced. (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)
The basic idea of counterfactual theories of causation is that the meaning of causal claims can be explained in terms of counterfactual conditionals of the form “If A had not occurred, C would not have occurred”. While counterfactual analyses have been given of type-causal concepts, most counterfactual analyses have focused on singular causal or token-causal claims of the form “event c caused event e”. Analyses of token-causation have become popular in the last thirty years, especially since the development (...) in the 1970's of possible world semantics for counterfactuals. The best known counterfactual analysis of causation is David Lewis's (1973b) theory. However, intense discussion over thirty years has cast doubt on the adequacy of any simple analysis of singular causation in terms of counterfactuals. Recent years have seen a proliferation of different refinements of the basic idea to achieve a closer match with commonsense judgements about causation. (shrink)
Questions about the metaphysics of causation may be usefully divided as follows. First, there are questions about the nature of the causal relata, including (1.1) whether they are in spacetime immanence), (1.2) how fine grained they are individuation), and (1.3) how many there are adicity). Second, there are questions about the metaphysics of the causal relation, including (2.1) what is the difference between causally related and causally unrelated sequences connection), (2.2) what is the difference between sequences related as cause (...) to effect, and those related as effect to cause or as joint effects of a common cause direction), and (2.3) what is the difference between sequences involving the cause, and those involving mere conditions selection). (shrink)
The counterfactual analysis of causation has focused on one particular counterfactual conditional, taking as its starting-point the suggestion that C causes E iff (C E). In this paper, some consequences are explored of reversing this counterfactual, and developing an account starting with the idea that C causes E iff (E C). This suggestion is discussed in relation to the problem of pre-emption. It is found that the 'reversed' counterfactual analysis can handle even the most difficult cases of pre-emption with (...) only minimal complications. The paper closes with a discussion of the wider philosophical implications of developing a reversed counterfactual analysis, especially concerning the differentiation of causes from causal conditions, causation by absences, and the extent to which causes suffice for their effects. (shrink)
In many toxic-tort cases - notably in Oxendine v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc, and in Joiner v. G.E., - plaintiffs argue that the expert testimony they wish to present, though no part of it is sufficient by itself to establish causation "by a preponderance of the evidence," is jointly sufficient to meet this standard of proof; and defendants sometimes argue in response that it is a mistake to imagine that a collection of pieces of weak evidence can be any (...) stronger than its individual components. This article draws on the epistemological theory I first presented in 1993 in Evidence and Inquiry, and then amplified and refined in 2003 in Defending Science - Within Reason. This theory of evidence shows that, under certain conditions, a combination of pieces of evidence none of which is sufficient by itself really can warrant a casual conclusion to a higher degree than any of its components alone. When my account is applied to the very complex congeries of evidence typically proffered to prove general causation in these toxic-tort cases, it improves on the influential "Bradford Hill criteria" for assessing causation; and it suggests answers to questions frequently raised in such cases: e.g., whether epidemiological evidence is essential for proof of causation, and whether such evidence should be excluded if it is not statistically significant. Moreover, the argument of this paper reveals that by obliging courts to screen each item of expert testimony individually for reliability, the atomism implicit in Daubert will sometimes stand in the way of an accurate assessment of the worth of complex causation evidence. (shrink)
Advocates of the conserved quantity (CQ) theory of causation have their own peculiar problem with conservation laws. Since they analyze causal process and interaction in terms of conserved quantities that are in turn defined as physical quantities governed by conservation laws, they must formulate conservation laws in a way that does not invoke causation, or else circularity threatens. In this paper I will propose an adequate formulation of a conservation law that serves CQ theorists' purpose.