In the cognitive sciences, causal cognition in the physical domain has featured as a core research topic, but the impact of culture has been rarely ever explored. One case in point for a topic on which this neglect is pronounced is the pervasive tendency of people to consider one of two (equally important) entities as more important for bringing about an effect. In order to scrutinize how robust such tendencies are across cultures, we asked German and Tongan participants to (...) assign prime causality in nine symmetric settings. For most settings, strong asymmetries in both cultures were found, but not always in the same direction, depending on the task content. This indicates that causal asymmetries, while indeed being a robust phenomenon across cultures, are also subject to culture-specific concepts. Moreover, the asymmetries were found to be modulated by figure-ground relations, but not by marking agency. (shrink)
In a recent paper CausalAsymmetry, Douglas Ehring has proposed an intriguing solution to the vexing problem of causalasymmetry. The aim of this paper is to show that his theory is not satisfactory. Moreover, the examples that I use in showing the defect of Ehring's theory also indicate that the counterfactual analysis of causation has a problem that cannot be remedied by Marshall Swain's suggested refinement of the counterfactual analysis of causation in Causation and Distinct (...) Events. (shrink)
This paper asks why causal asymmetries should give rise to explanatory asymmetries. One way to give some rationale for the asymmetries of causal explanation is to adopt a pragmatic view of explanation and to stress the fact that causes can be used to manipulate their effects. This paper argues, however, that when one recognizes that causalasymmetry is fundamentally an asymmetry of "connectedness", one can see how causalasymmetry leads to an objective difference (...) between explanations in terms of causes and explanations in terms of effects. The pragmatic differences are subsidiary. (shrink)
According to a widespread view, which can be traced back to Russell’s famous attack on the notion of cause, causal notions have no legitimate role to play in mature physical theorizing. This view has proponents even among those who believe that causal notions have an important place in our folk conception of the world. In this paper I critically examine Bas van Fraassen’s articulation of this view in a debate with Nancy Cartwright. I argue that there is an (...)asymmetry of state preparation characterizing our experimental interactions with physical systems that can provide a justification for asymmetric causal assumptions even within the context of a physics with time-reversal invariant dynamical equations. (shrink)
This essay defends two theses that jointly establish a link between causal and explanatory asymmetry. The first thesis is that statements specifying facts about effects, unlike statements specifying facts about causes, are not "independently variable". The second thesis is that independent variability among purportedly explanatory factors is a necessary condition on scientific explanations.
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 causalasymmetry.
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 (...) class='Hi'>causalasymmetry 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)
Backtracking influence is influence that zigzags in time. For example, backtracking influence exists when an event E_1 makes an event E_2 more likely by way of a nomic connection that goes from E_1 back in time to an event C and then forward in time to E_2. I contend that in our local region of spacetime, at least, backtracking influence is redundant in the sense that any existing backtracking influence exerted by E_1 on E_2 is equivalent to E_1's temporally direct (...) influence on E_2. I prove the redundancy of backtracking influence using several plausible physical principles without assuming any fundamental temporal or causalasymmetry. This explanation can play a prominent role in an account of why causation appears to be objectively asymmetric regardless of whether the fundamental laws are symmetric. (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)
This book, by one of the pre-eminent philosophers of science writing today, offers the most comprehensive account available of causal asymmetries. Causation is asymmetrical in many different ways. Causes precede effects; explanations cite causes not effects. Agents use causes to manipulate their effects; they don't use effects to manipulate their causes. Effects of a common cause are correlated; causes of a common effect are not. This book explains why a relationship that is asymmetrical in one of these regards is (...) asymmetrical in the others. Hausman discovers surprising hidden connections between theories of causation and traces them all to an asymmetry of independence. This is a major book for philosophers of science that will also prove insightful to economists and statisticians. (shrink)
Process theories of causality seek to explicate causality as a property of individual causal processes. This paper examines the capacity of such theories to account for the asymmetry of causation. Three types of theories of asymmetry are discussed; the subjective, the temporal, and the physical, the third of these being the preferred approach. Asymmetric features of the world, namely the entropic and Kaon arrows, are considered as possible sources of causalasymmetry and a physical theory (...) of asymmetry is subsequently developed with special reference to the questions of objectivity and backwards causation. (shrink)
In a 2008 paper, Walmsley argued that the explanations employed in the dynamical approach to cognitive science, as exemplified by the Haken, Kelso and Bunz model of rhythmic finger movement, and the model of infant preservative reaching developed by Esther Thelen and her colleagues, conform to Carl Hempel and Paul Oppenheim’s deductive-nomological model of explanation (also known as the covering law model). Although we think Walmsley’s approach is methodologically sound in that it starts with an analysis of scientific practice rather (...) than a general philosophical framework, we nevertheless feel that there are two problems with his paper. First, he focuses only on the deductivenomological model and so neglects the important fact that explanations are causal. Second, the explanations offered by the dynamical approach do not take the deductive-nomological format, because they do not deduce the explananda from exceptionless laws. Because of these two points, Walmsley makes the dynamical explanations in cognitive science appear problematic, while in fact they are not. (shrink)
Studies with humans have failed to produce evidence that any direct causal relation exists between the asymmetry of one function in an individual and the asymmetry of a different function in that individual. Without such evidence, factors external to an individual's nervous system, such as social interactions, may play crucial roles in explaining the directions of all asymmetries at all levels.
According to a widespread view, which can be traced back to Russell’s famous attack on the notion of cause, causal notions have no legitimate role to play in how mature physical theories represent the world. In this paper I first critically examine a number of arguments for this view that center on the asymmetry of the causal relation and argue that none of them succeed. I then argue that embedding the dynamical models of a theory into richer (...)causal structures can allow us to decide between models in cases where our observational data severely underdetermine our choice of dynamical models. (shrink)
In this paper I demonstrate that the causal structure of flagpole-like systems can be determined by application of causal graph theory. Additional information about the ordering of events in time or about how parameters of the systems of interest can be manipulated is not needed.
On the basis of the Woodhouse causal axiomatics, we show that conformal proper times and an extra variable in addition to those of space and time, together give a physical justification for the ‘chronometric hypothesis’ of general relativity. Indeed, we show that, with a lack of these latter two ingredients and of this hypothesis, clock paradoxes exist for which the unparadoxical asymmetry cannot be recovered when using the ‘clock and message functions’ only. These proper times originate from a (...) given conformal structure of the spacetime when ascribing different compatible projective structures to each Woodhouse particle, and then, each defines a specific Weylian ‘sheaf structure’. In addition, the proper time parameterizations are defined via path-dependent conformal scale factors, which act like sockets for any kind of physical interaction and also represent the values of the variable associated with the extra dimension. (shrink)
Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is small deviations from perfect symmetry in normally bilaterally symmetrical traits. We examined the relationship between FA of five body traits (ear height, length of three digits, and ankle circumference) and self-reported scores of physical and verbal aggression in a sample of 90 boys aged 10 to 15 years. The relationships between FA and scores of aggression (particularly physical aggression) were found to be negative; in other words, the most symmetrical boys showed highest aggression. One trait (...) (ankle circumference) showed the characteristics of “ideal” FA—parametric mean of zero and a normal distribution. Mean asymmetries calculated from six repeated measures of ankle FA in 30 subjects taken over a period of five months showed strong negative associations with scores of physical aggression which were independent of age, height, and weight.It is argued that soft tissue “cyclical” FA (as opposed to “fixed” bony FA) is dependent on the secretion of hormones: for example, cortisol. Causal associations between behavioral traits such as aggresion and hormones will lead to similar correlations between FA and behavior. (shrink)
argues that the success of the backward causation hypothesis in quantum mechanics would provide strong support for a version of Reichenbach's account of the direction of causal processes, which takes the direction of causation to rest on the fork asymmetry. He also criticises my perspectival account of the direction of causation, which takes causalasymmetry to be a projection of our own temporal asymmetry as agents. In this reply I take issue with Dowe's argument at (...) three main points: his claim that the backward causation hypothesis in QM is incompatible with my perspectival approach to the direction of causation; his defence of the fork asymmetry approach against a general criticism of mine based on the time-symmetry of microphysics; and his application of his preferred account of the direction of causal processes to the relevant cases in QM. (shrink)
This paper defends the view that the asymmetry of causation can be explained in terms of probabilistic relationships between event types. Papineau first explores three different versions of the "fork asymmetry", namely (i) David Lewis' asymmetry of overdetermination, (ii) the screening-off property of common causes, and (iii) Spirtes', Glymour's and Scheines' analysis of probabilistic graphs. He then argues that this fork asymmetry is both (i) a genuine phenomenon and (ii) a satisfactory metaphysical reduction of (...) class='Hi'>causalasymmetry. In his final section he shows how this reduction can account for the relevance of causal direction to human agency, and in particular for the fact that we can manipulate causes to influence their effects, but not vice versa. (shrink)
Dowe (1996) argues that the success of the backward causation hypothesis in quantum mechanics would provide strong support for a version of Reichenbach's account of the direction of causal processes, which takes the direction of causation to rest on the fork asymmetry. He also criticises my perspectival account of the direction of causation, which takes causalasymmetry to be a projection of our own temporal asymmetry as agents. In this reply I take issue with Dowe's (...) argument at three main points: his claim that the backward causation hypothesis in QM is incompatible with my perspectival approach to the direction of causation; his defence of the fork asymmetry approach against a general criticism of mine based on the time-symmetry of microphysics; and his application of his preferred account of the direction of causal processes to the relevant cases in QM. (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)
This paper addresses a problem that arises when it comes to inferring deterministic causal chains from pertinent empirical data. It will be shown that to every deterministic chain there exists an empirically equivalent common cause structure. Thus, our overall conviction that deterministic chains are one of the most ubiquitous (macroscopic) causal structures is underdetermined by empirical data. It will be argued that even though the chain and its associated common cause model are empirically equivalent there exists an important (...)asymmetry between the two models with respect to model expansions. This asymmetry might constitute a basis on which to disambiguate corresponding causal inferences on non-empirical grounds. (shrink)
Concepts employed in folk descriptions of the world often turn out to be more perspectival than they seem at first sight, involving previously unrecognised sensitivity to the viewpoint or 'situation' of the user of the concept in question. Often, it is progress in science that reveals such perspectivity, and the deciding factor is that we realise that other creatures would apply the same concepts with different extension, in virtue of differences between their circumstances and ours. In this paper I argue (...) that causal concepts are perspectival in this way, and describe the 'situation' on which they depend in terms of an abstract characterisation of the viewpoint of a deliberating agent. I argue that this approach makes better sense than rivals of the apparent asymmetry and temporal orientation of the causal relation. (shrink)
Mathias Frisch provides the first sustained philosophical discussion of conceptual problems in classical particle-field theories. Part of the book focuses on the problem of a satisfactory equation of motion for charged particles interacting with electromagnetic fields. As Frisch shows, the standard equation of motion results in a mathematically inconsistent theory, yet there is no fully consistent and conceptually unproblematic alternative theory. Frisch describes in detail how the search for a fundamental equation of motion is partly driven by pragmatic considerations (like (...) simplicity and mathematical tractability) that can override the aim for full consistency. The book also offers a comprehensive review and criticism of both the physical and philosophical literature on the temporal asymmetry exhibited by electromagnetic radiation fields, including Einstein's discussion of the asymmetry and Wheeler and Feynman's influential absorber theory of radiation. Frisch argues that attempts to derive the asymmetry from thermodynamic or cosmological considerations fail and proposes that we should understand the asymmetry as due to a fundamental causal constraint. The book's overarching philosophical thesis is that standard philosophical accounts that strictly identify scientific theories with a mathematical formalism and a mapping function specifying the theory's ontology are inadequate, since they permit neither inconsistent yet genuinely successful theories nor thick causal notions to be part of fundamental physics. (shrink)
I attempt a reconstruction of Kant's version of the causal theory of time that makes it appear coherent. Two problems are at issue. The first concerns Kant's reference to reciprocal causal influence for characterizing simultaneity. This approach is criticized by pointing out that Kant's procedure involves simultaneous counterdirected processes-which seems to run into circularity. The problem can be defused by drawing on instantaneous processes such as the propagation of gravitation in Newtonian mechanics. Another charge of circularity against Kant's (...)causal theory was leveled by Schopenhauer. His objection was that Kant's approach is invalidated by the failure to deliver non-temporal criteria for distinguishing between causes and effects. I try to show that the modern causal account has made important progress toward a successful resolution of this difficulty. The fork asymmetry, as based on Reichenbach's principle of the common cause, provides a means for the distinction between cause and effect that is not based on temporal order (if some preconditions are realized). (shrink)
The psychology of reasoning is increasingly considering agents' values and preferences, achieving greater integration with judgment and decision making, social cognition, and moral reasoning. Some of this research investigates utility conditionals, ‘‘if p then q’’ statements where the realization of p or q or both is valued by some agents. Various approaches to utility conditionals share the assumption that reasoners make inferences from utility conditionals based on the comparison between the utility of p and the expected utility of q. This (...) article introduces a new parameter in this analysis, the underlying causal structure of the conditional. Four experiments showed that causal structure moderated utility-informed conditional reasoning. These inferences were strongly invited when the underlying structure of the conditional was causal, and significantly less so when the underlying structure of the conditional was diagnostic. This asymmetry was only observed for conditionals in which the utility of q was clear, and disappeared when the utility of q was unclear. Thus, an adequate account of utility-informed inferences conditional reasoning requires three components: utility, probability, and causal structure. (shrink)
Temporal analyses of causal directionality fail if causes needn't precede their effects. Certain well-known difficulties with alternative (non-temporal) analyses have, in recent accounts, been avoided by attending more carefully to the formal features of relations typically figuring in philosophical discussions of causation. I discuss here a representative of such accounts, offered by David Sanford, according to which a correct analysis of causal priority must issue from viewing the condition relation as nonsymmetrical. The theory is shown first to be (...) an implicitly counterfactual treatment at its base: this provides for an explicit reformulation of several key notions in the theory. An argument is then presented, independent of these modal considerations, for the conclusion that causal priority is possible only given certain implausible assumptions about the asymmetric character of causal laws which, I claim, are not met. The best objection to this argument is shown to fail on several counts, partly in light of the counterfactual results offered earlier. It is concluded that, if laws are symmetric, analyses of the sort discussed must look elsewhere for the source of causal priority; but if laws are not symmetric, resting causal priority so heavily on nomological asymmetry is no analysis at all. (shrink)
In this paper I explore the relationship between the “Humean” regularity view of causation, the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect, and the asymmetry of causation—the principle that if an event e1 causes e2, then it is false that e2 causes e1. I argue that the regularity view, in combination with the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect, is inconsistent with the asymmetry of causation, and that the inconsistency (...) can be removed by a modification of the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect that captures what is plausible in that view. I defend Hume, then, against the objection that he cannot accommodate a cause as being a necessary condition of its effect without absurdly denying the asymmetry of causation. This is only a limited defense, though, for I do not address the issue on which the tenability of the regularity view ultimately depends: viz., whether it can distinguish between causal laws and accidental generalizations without appealing to natural necessity. (shrink)
Causalists about explanation claim that to explain an event is to provide information about the causal history of that event. Some causalists also endorse a proportionality claim, namely that one explanation is better than another insofar as it provides a greater amount of causal information. In this chapter I consider various challenges to these causalist claims. There is a common and influential formulation of the causalist requirement – the ‘Causal Process Requirement’ – that does appear vulnerable to (...) these anti-causalist challenges, but I argue that they do not give us reason to reject causalism entirely. Instead, these challenges lead us to articulate the causalist requirement in an alternative way. This alternative articulation incorporates some of the important anti-causalist insights without abandoning the explanatory necessity of causal information. For example, proponents of the ‘equilibrium challenge’ argue that the best available explanations of the behaviour of certain dynamical systems do not appear to provide any causal information. I respond that, contrary to appearances, these equilibrium explanations are fundamentally causal, and I provide a formulation of the causalist thesis that is immune to the equilibrium challenge. I then show how this formulation is also immune to the ‘epistemic challenge’ – thus vindicating (a properly formulated version of) the causalist thesis. (shrink)
Jaegwon Kim’s causal exclusion argument says that if all physical effects have sufficient physical causes, and no physical effects are caused twice over by distinct physical and mental causes, there cannot be any irreducible mental causes. In addition, Kim has argued that the nonreductive physicalist must give up completeness, and embrace the possibility of downward causation. This paper argues first that this extra argument relies on a principle of property individuation, which the nonreductive physicalist need not accept, and second (...) that once we get clear on overdetermination, there is a way to reject the exclusion principle upon which the causal exclusion argument depends, but third that this should not lead to the belief that mental causation is easily accounted for in terms of counterfactual dependencies. (shrink)
According to an increasing number of authors, the best, if not the only, argument in favour of physicalism is the so-called 'overdetermination argument'. This argument, if sound, establishes that all the entities that enter into causal interactions with the physical world are physical. One key premise in the overdetermination argument is the principle of the causal closure of the physical world, said to be supported by contemporary physics. In this paper, I examine various ways in which physics may (...) support the principle, either as a methodological guide or as depending on some other laws and principles of physics. (shrink)
The luck argument raises a serious challenge for libertarianism about free will. In broad outline, if an action is undetermined, then it appears to be a matter of luck whether or not one performs it. And if it is a matter of luck whether or not one performs an action, then it seems that the action is not performed with free will. This argument is most effective against event-causal accounts of libertarianism. Recently, Christopher Franklin (2011) has defended event-causal (...) libertarianism against four formulations of the luck argument. I will argue that three of Franklin’s responses are unsuccessful and that there are important versions of the luck challenge that his defense has left unaddressed. (shrink)
Several of Thomas Aquinas's proofs for the existence of God rely on the claim that causal series cannot proceed in infinitum. I argue that Aquinas has good reason to hold this claim given his conception of causation. Because he holds that effects are ontologically dependent on their causes, he holds that the relevant causal series are wholly derivative: the later members of such series serve as causes only insofar as they have been caused by and are effects of (...) the earlier members. Because the intermediate causes in such series possess causal powers only by deriving them from all the preceding causes, they need a first and non-derivative cause to serve as the source of their causal powers. (shrink)
Given their physical realization, what causal work is left for functional properties to do? Humean solutions to the exclusion problem (e.g. overdetermination and difference-making) typically appeal to counterfactual and/or nomic relations between functional property-instances and behavioural effects, tacitly assuming that such relations suffice for causal work. Clarification of the notion of causal work, I argue, shows not only that such solutions don't work, but also reveals a novel solution to the exclusion problem based on the relations between (...) dispositional properties at different levels of mechanism, which involves three central claims: (i) the causal work of properties consists in grounding dispositions, (ii) functional properties are dispositions, and (iii) the dispositions of mechanisms are grounded in the dispositions of their components. Treating functional mental properties as dispositions of components in psychological mechanisms, I argue that such properties do the causal work of grounding agent-level dispositions. These dispositions, while ultimately grounded in the physical realizers of mental properties, are indirectly so grounded, through a hierarchy of grounding relations that extends upwards, of necessity, through the mental domain. (shrink)
Some argue for materialism claiming that a physical event cannot have a non-physical cause, or by claiming the 'Principle of Causal Closure' to be true. This I call a 'Sweeping Naturalistic Argument'. This article argues against this. It describes what it would be for a material event to have an immaterial cause.
The development of causal modelling since the 1950s has been accompanied by a number of controversies, the most striking of which concerns the Markov condition. Reichenbach's conjunctive forks did satisfy the Markov condition, while Salmon's interactive forks did not. Subsequently some experts in the field have argued that adequate causal models should always satisfy the Markov condition, while others have claimed that non-Markovian causal models are needed in some cases. This paper argues for the second position by (...) considering the multi-causal forks, which are widespread in contemporary medicine (Section 2). A non-Markovian causal model for such forks is introduced and shown to be mathematically tractable (Sections 6, 7, and 8). The paper also gives a general discussion of the controversy about the Markov condition (Section 1), and of the related controversy about probabilistic causality (Sections 3, 4, and 5). (shrink)
Some mental states are about themselves. Nothing is a cause of itself. So some mental states are not about their causes; they are about things distinct from their causes. If this argument is sound, it spells trouble for causal theories of mental content—the precise sort of trouble depending on the precise sort of causal theory. This paper shows that the argument is sound (§§1-3), and then spells out the trouble (§4).
In this paper, I distinguish two often-conflated theses—the thesis that all dispositions are intrinsic properties and the thesis that the causal bases of all dispositions are intrinsic properties—and argue that the falsity of the former does not entail the falsity of the latter. In particular, I argue that extrinsic dispositions are a counterexample to first thesis but not necessarily to the second thesis, because an extrinsic disposition does not need to include any extrinsic property in its causal basis. (...) I conclude by drawing some general lessons about the nature of dispositions and their relation to their causal bases. (shrink)
This paper examines the idea that there might be natural kinds of causal processes, with characteristic diachronic structure, in much the same way that various chemical elements form natural kinds, with characteristic synchronic structure. This claim -- if compatible with empirical science -- has the potential to shed light on a metaphysics of essentially dispositional properties, championed by writers such as Bird and Ellis.