Explanation is usually taken to be a relation between certain entities. The aim of this paper is to discuss what entities are suitable as explanatory relata of singular causal explanations, i.e., explanations concerning singular causality relating particular events or other appropriate entities. I outline three different positions. The purely causal approach stipulates that the same entities that are related in the singular causal relation are also linked by the explanatory relation. This position, however, has a problem (...) to distinguish between causation and explanation, two distinct relations allegedly obtaining between the same entities. The linguistic approach states that explanatory relata are linguistic entities of some sort, e.g., statements, propositions, etc. There are various versions of this position. I deal with two of them and try to show that they are unsatisfactory because they transform explanation into some other type of relation. On the first version, explanation is very close to interpretation or clarification of intension and on the second version it seems to be indistinguishable from an evidential relation or justification. I consider these transformations in understanding explanation unnecessary, and consequently reject linguistic views of explanatory relata. The most promising proposal concerning explanatory relata seems to be the mixed view, according to which propositions explain events or other fitting extra-linguistic entities. (shrink)
I consider an alleged example of a non-transitive causal chain, on the basis of which J. Lee has argued that causation is non-transitive. I show that his analysis of the example rests on too coarse-grained an approach to causalrelata. I develop a fine-grained analysis of events which owes much to Dretske’s notion of an allomorphic event, and I use this analysis to show that in the example all the genuine causal chains are indeed transitive. It (...) emerges that when fine-grained analyses of events are possible, causal contexts are aIlomorphicaIly sensitive. (shrink)
Realist accounts of natural kinds rely on an account of causation where the relata of causal relations are real and discrete. These views about natural kinds entail very different accounts of causation. In particular, the necessity of the causal relation given the instantiation of the properties of natural kinds is more robust in the fundamental sciences (e.g. physics and chemistry) than it is in the life sciences (e.g. biology and the medical sciences). In this paper, I wish (...) to argue that there is a difference in kind between the putative natural kinds of the fundamental sciences and those of the life sciences, such that a uniform account of causation cannot capture both. The upshot is that we must either reject the claim that the kinds of the life sciences are genuine natural kinds, or accept that there are different kinds of causal relations involving the relata of natural kinds. I accept the latter. I reject the objection that the true causal relations that relate macro-level kinds are to be found by “going down a level” to causal relation at the fundamental kind, because the relevant causal mechanisms are not at the fundamental level. Since, autonomous mechanistic accounts of causal relations at the macro-level can be provided (e.g. in Biology and medicine), I argue that realism about the natural kinds of the life sciences is justified. I address the problem of negative causation as a counterexample to the positive account of causation that is entailed by realism about natural kinds in the life sciences. I argue that an acceptance of realist accounts of two different kinds of natural kind makes a uniform analysis of causation look unpromising. (277 words). (shrink)
The literature on causation distinguishes between causal claims relating properties or types and causal claims relating individuals or tokens. Many authors maintain that corresponding to these two kinds of causal claims are two different kinds of causal relations. Whether to regard causal relations among variables as yet another variety of causation is also controversial. This essay maintains that causal relations obtain among tokens and that type causal claims are generalizations concerning causal relations (...) among these tokens. (shrink)
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)
The possibility of apparently negative causation has been discussed in a number of recent works on causation, but the discussion has suffered from beingscattered. In this paper, the problem of apparently negative causation and its attemptedsolutions are examined in more detail. I discuss and discard three attempts that have beensuggested in the literature. My conclusion is negative: Negative causation shows that thetraditional cause & effect view is inadequate. A more unified causal perspective is needed.
Robb & Heil describe a higher-order version of the popular Causal Exclusion Problem. In particular, they ask whether the argument that led to a change in focus from event causation to causal relevance of properties can be iterated, leading us to focus on the causal relevance of properties of those properties, or properties of properties of those properties, and so on. In this paper, I investigate this curious higher-order problem and argue that the appeal of both the (...) original argument and its iterations reflects a lack of understanding of causalrelata and a problem with the notion of causal relevance. (shrink)
Three-valued (strong-Kleene) modal logic provides the foundation for a new approach to formalizing causal explanation as a relation between partial situations. The approach makes fine-grained distinctions between aspects of events, even between aspects that are equivalent in classical logic. The framework can accommodate a variety of ontologies concerning the relata of causal explanation. I argue, however, for a tripartite ontology of objects corresponding to sentential nominals: facts, tropes (or facta or states of affairs), and situations (or events). (...) I axiomatize the relations and use canonical models to demonstrate completeness. (shrink)
[Under Review] Causal contextualism holds that sentences of the form ‘c causes e’ have context-sensitive truth-conditions. Contextualists argue that how one describes the relata of a causal relation affects the truth of one’s claim. We show that this argument appeals to the wrong kind of nominals to denote events; when proper nominals are used, the data actually favor invariantism over contextualism. Second, contextualists invoke the phenomenon of contrastive focus to argue that causal statements implicitly designate salient (...) alternatives to the cause and effect. We argue that focus selection is equally well explained by an invariantist approach. Finally, we consider the contextualist’s claim that the appropriateness of a causal statement depends on what is contextually taken for granted or made salient. We explain how invariantism can explain this context sensitivity, and argue that pace the contextualist, some causal sentences are always correct and can never be plausibly denied, regardless of the context. (shrink)
This article compares causal and constitutive explanation. While scientific inquiry usually addresses both causal and constitutive questions, making the distinction is crucial for a detailed understanding of scientific questions and their interrelations. These explanations have different kinds of explananda and they track different sorts of dependencies. Constitutive explanations do not address events or behaviors, but causal capacities. While there are some interesting relations between building and causal manipulation, causation and constitution are not to be confused. Constitution (...) is a synchronous and asymmetric relation between relata that cannot be conceived as independent existences. However, despite their metaphysical differences, the same key ideas about explanation largely apply to both. Causal and constitutive explanations face similar challenges (such as the problems of relevance and explanatory regress) and both are in the business of mapping networks of counterfactual dependence—i.e. mechanisms—although the relevant counterfactuals are of a different sort. In the final section the issue of developmental explanation is discussed. It is argued that developmental explanations deserve their own place in taxonomy of explanations, although ultimately developmental dependencies can be analyzed as combinations of causal and constitutive dependencies. Hence, causal and constitutive explanation are distinct, but not always completely separate forms of explanation. (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.
With the emergence of modern physics a conflict became apparent between the Principle of Sufficient Cause and the Principle of Physical Causal Closure. Though these principles are not logically incompatible, they could no longer be considered to be both true; one of them had to be false. The present paper makes use of this seldom noticed conflict to argue on the basis of considerations of comparative rationality for the truth of causal statements that have at least some degree (...) of philosophico-theological relevance and can be taken to indicate ( not prove) the existence of God. The paper’s comparatively modest aim is to establish belief in the existence of God as a rational metaphysical option, not as a rational obligation. In its final section, enriched causal considerations lead to an indication ( not proof) of God as that which guarantees the unified continuance of the physical world. (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.
Among theories of personal identity over time the simple view has not been popular among philosophers, but it nevertheless remains the default view among non philosophers. It may be construed either as the view that nothing grounds a claim of personal identity over time, or that something quite simple (a soul perhaps) is the ground. If the former construal is accepted, a conspicuous difficulty is that the condition of causal dependence between person-stages is absent. But this leaves such a (...) view open to an objection from the failure to provide a condition of individuation. If, on the other hand something like a soul is said to ground personal identity over time, such an account turns out to be more suited to a kind of continuity view. (shrink)
For over 20 years, Jaegwon Kim’s Causal Exclusion Argument has stood as the major hurdle for non-reductive physicalism. If successful, Kim’s argument would show that the high-level properties posited by non-reductive physicalists must either be identical with lower-level physical properties, or else must be causally inert. The most prominent objection to the Causal Exclusion Argument—the so-called Overdetermination Objection—points out that there are some notions of causation that are left untouched by the argument. If causation is simply counterfactual dependence, (...) for example, then the Causal Exclusion Argument fails. Thus, much of the existing debate turns on the issue of which account of causation is appropriate. In this paper, however, I take a bolder approach and argue that Kim’s preferred version of the Causal Exclusion Argument fails no matter what account one gives of causation. Any notion of causation that is strong enough to support the premises of the argument is too strong to play the role required in the logic of the argument. I also consider a second version of the Causal Exclusion Argument, and suggest that although it may avoid the problems of the first version, it begs the question against a particular form of non-reductive physicalism, namely emergentism. (shrink)
Do component forces exist in conjoined circumstances? Cartwright (1980) says no; Creary (1981) says yes. I'm inclined towards Cartwright's side in this matter, but find several problems with her argumentation. My primary aim here is to present a better, distinctly causal, argument against component forces: very roughly, I argue that the joint posit of component and resultant forces in conjoined circumstances gives rise to a threat of causal overdetermination, avoidance of which best proceeds via eliminativism about component forces. (...) A secondary aim is to show that rejecting component forces does not require, pace Cartwright, rejecting certain attractive theses about what laws of nature express and the role such laws play in scientific explanations. (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)
The contribution argues that causal interpretations of empirical correlations between neural and conscious events are meaningful even if not fully verifiable and that there are reasons in favour of an epiphenomenalist construction of psychophysical causality. It is suggested that an account of causality can be given that makes interactionism, epiphenomenalism and Leibnizian parallelism semantically distinct interpretations of the phenomena. Though neuroscience cannot strictly prove or rule out any one of these interpretations it can be argued that methodological principles favour (...) a causal interpretation on epiphenomenalist lines, both for reasons of metaphysical parsimony and for reasons of coherence with established physical principles such as the conservation of energy. In the concluding chapter, some of the philosophical and the empirical challenges following from this model are outlined, the most important being closer scrutiny of the neurophysiological processes accompanying conscious volition. (shrink)
Arguably no concept is more fundamental to science than that of causality, for investigations into cases of existence, persistence, and change in the natural world are largely investigations into the causes of these phenomena. Yet the metaphysics and epistemology of causality remain unclear. For example, the ontological categories of the causalrelata have been taken to be objects (Hume 1739), events (Davidson 1967), properties (Armstrong 1978), processes (Salmon 1984), variables (Hitchcock 1993), and facts (Mellor 1995). (For convenience, causes (...) and effects will usually be understood as events in what follows.) Complicating matters, causal relations may be singular (Socrates’s drinking hemlock caused Socrates’s death) or general (Drinking hemlock causes death); hence the relata might be tokens (e.g., instances of properties) or types (e.g., types of events) of the category in question. Other questions up for grabs are: Are singular causes metaphysically and/or epistemologically prior to general causes or vice versa (or neither)? What grounds the intuitive asymmetry of the causal relation? Are macro-causal relations reducible to micro-causal relations? And perhaps most importantly: Are causal facts (e.g., the holding of causal relations) reducible to non-causal facts (e.g., the holding of certain spatiotemporal relations)? (shrink)
The paper will show how one may rationalize one-boxing in Newcomb's problem and drinking the toxin in the Toxin puzzle within the confines of causal decision theory by ascending to so-called reflexive decision models which reflect how actions are caused by decision situations (beliefs, desires, and intentions) represented by ordinary unreflexive decision models.
There is an assumption common in the philosophy of mind literature that kinds in our sciences—or causal kinds, at least—are individuated by the causal powers that objects have in virtue of the properties they instantiate. While this assumption might not be problematic by itself, some authors take the assumption to mean that falling under a kind and instantiating a property amount to the same thing. I call this assumption the “Property-Kind Individuation Principle”. A problem with this principle arises (...) because there are cases where we can sort objects by their possession of common causal powers, and yet those objects do not intuitively form a causal kind. In this short note, I discuss why the Property-Kind Individuation Principle is thus not a warranted metaphysical assumption. (shrink)
This paper defends my claim in earlier work that certain non-causal conditions are sufficient for the truth of some reasons explanations of actions, against the critique of this claim given by Randolph Clarke in his book, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will.
I argue that one central aspect of the epistemology of causation, the use of causes as evidence for their effects, is largely independent of the metaphysics of causation. In particular, I use the formalism of Bayesian causal graphs to factor the incremental evidential impact of a cause for its effect into a direct cause-to-effect component and a backtracking component. While the “backtracking” evidence that causes provide about earlier events often obscures things, once we our restrict attention to the cause-to-effect (...) component it is true to say promoting (inhibiting) causes raise (lower) the probabilities of their effects. This factoring assumes the same form whether causation is given an interventionist, counterfactual or probabilistic interpretation. Whether we think about causation in terms of interventions and causal graphs, counterfactuals and imaging functions, or probability raising against the background of causally homogenous partitions, if we describe the essential features of a situation correctly then the incremental evidence that a cause provides for its effect in virtue of being its cause will be the same. (shrink)
Many political philosophers hold the Feasible Alternatives Principle (FAP): justice demands that we implement some reform of international institutions P only if P is feasible and P improves upon the status quo from the standpoint of justice. The FAP implies that any argument for a moral requirement to implement P must incorporate claims whose content pertains to the causal processes that explain the current state of affairs. Yet, philosophers routinely neglect the need to attend to actual causal processes. (...) This undermines their arguments concerning moral requirements to reform international institutions. The upshot is that philosophers’ arguments must engage in causal analysis to a greater extent than is typical. -/- [Supplement: Handout available at http://db.tt/fyuVW3Xv]. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the notion of a “causal power”, particularly as it is relevant to a theory of properties whereby properties are individuated by the causal powers they bestow on the objects that instantiate them. I take as my target certain eliminativist positions that argue that certain kinds of properties (or relations) do not exist because they fail to bestow unique causal powers on objects. But the notion of a causal powers is inextricably bound (...) up with our notion of what an event is, and not only is there disagreement as to which theory of events is appropriate, but on the three prevailing theories, it can be shown that the eliminativists arguments do not follow. (shrink)
This paper presents an attempt to integrate theories of causal processes—of the kind developed by Wesley Salmon and Phil Dowe—into a theory of causal models using Bayesian networks. We suggest that arcs in causal models must correspond to possible causal processes. Moreover, we suggest that when processes are rendered physically impossible by what occurs on distinct paths, the original model must be restricted by removing the relevant arc. These two techniques suffice to explain cases of late (...) preëmption and other cases that have proved problematic for causal models. (shrink)
Andy Egan has recently produced a set of alleged counterexamples to causal decision theory (CDT) in which agents are forced to decide among causally unratifiable options, thereby making choices they know they will regret. I show that, far from being counterexamples, CDT gets Egan's cases exactly right. Egan thinks otherwise because he has misapplied CDT by requiring agents to make binding choices before they have processed all available information about the causal consequences of their acts. I elucidate CDT (...) in a way that makes it clear where Egan goes wrong, and which explains why his examples pose no threat to the theory. My approach has similarities to a modification of CDT proposed by Frank Arntzenius, but it differs in the significance that it assigns to potential regrets. I maintain, contrary to Arntzenius, that an agent facing Egan's decisions can rationally choose actions that she knows she will later regret. All rationality demands of agents it that they maximize unconditional causal expected utility from an epistemic perspective that accurately reflects all the available evidence about what their acts are likely to cause. This yields correct answers even in outlandish cases in which one is sure to regret whatever one does. (shrink)
Causal selection is the task of picking out, from a field of known causally relevant factors, some factors as the actual causes of an event or class of events or the causes that "make the difference". The Causal Parity Thesis in the philosophy of biology is basically the claim that there are no grounds for such a selection. The main target of this thesis is usually gene centrism, the doctrine that genes play some special role in ontogeny, which (...) is often described in terms of information-bearing or programming. This paper is concerned with the attempt of refuting the Causal Parity Thesis by offering principles of causal selection that are spelled out in terms of an explicit philosophical account of causation, namely an interventionist account. I show that two such accounts that have been developed, although they contain important insights about causation in biology, nonetheless fail to refute the Causal Parity Thesis: Ken Waters's account of actual difference-making and Jim Woodward's account of causal specificity. A combination of the two also doesn't do the trick, nor does David Lewis's original notion of influence. We need additional conceptual resources. I argue that the resources we need consist in a special class of counterfactual conditionals, namely counterfactuals the antecedents of which describe biologically normal interventions. (shrink)
It is widely held that, as Morgenbesser’s case is usually taken to show, considerations of causal or probabilistic dependence should enter into the evaluation of counterfactuals. This paper challenges that idea. I present a modified version of Morgenbesser’s case and show how probabilistic approaches to counterfactuals are in serious trouble. Specifically, I show how probabilistic approaches run into a dilemma in characterizing probabilistic independence. The modified case also illustrates a difficulty in defining causal independence. I close with a (...) suggestion for a strategy to handle this difficulty. (shrink)
An alleged counterexample to causal decision theory, put forward by Andy Egan, is studied in some detail. It is argued that Egan rejects the evaluation of causal decision theory on the basis of a description of the decision situation that is different from—indeed inconsistent with—the description on which causal decision theory makes its evaluation. So the example is not a counterexample to causal decision theory. Nevertheless, the example shows that causal decision theory can recommend unratifiable (...) acts (acts that once decided upon appear sub-optimal) which presents a problem in the dynamics of intentions (as a decision is the forming of an intention to act). It is argued that we can defuse this problem if we hold that decision theory is a theory of rational decision making rather than a theory of rational acts. It is shown how decisions can have epistemic side-effects that are not mediated by the act and that there are cases where one can only bring oneself to perform the best act by updating by imaging rather than by conditioning . This provides a pragmatic argument for updating by imaging rather than by conditioning in these cases. (shrink)
This article argues that the causal loops that occur in some time-travel scenarios and in certain solutions of the theory of relativity are no more mysterious than the infinitely descending causal chains familiar from Newtonian mechanics.
It has been argued that nonreductive physicalism leads to epiphenominalism about mental properties: the view that mental events cannot cause behavioral effects by virtue of their mental properties. Recently, attempts have been made to develop accounts of causal relevance for irreducible properties to show that mental properties need not be epiphenomenal. In this paper, I primarily discuss the account of Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit. I show how it can be developed to meet several obvious objections and to capture (...) our intuitive conception of degrees of causal relevance. However, I argue that the account requires large-scale miraculous coincidence for there to be causally relevant mental properties. I also argue that the same problem arises for two apparently very different accounts of causal relevance. I suggest that this result does not show that these accounts, on appropriate readings, are false. Therefore, I tentatively conclude that we have reason to believe that irreducible mental properties are causally irrelevant. Moreover, given that there is at leastprima facie evidence that mental properties can be causally relevant, my conclusion casts doubt on nonreductive physicalist theories of mental properties. (shrink)
I critically analyse two causal analyses of seeing, by Frank Jackson and Michael Tye. I show that both are unacceptable. I argue that Jackson's analysis fails because it does not rule out cases of non-seeing. Tye's analysis seems to be superior to Jackson's in this respect, but I show that it too lets in cases of non-seeing. I also show that Tye's proposed solution to a problem for his theory -- which involves a robot that mimics another (unseen) robot (...) -- fails. Finally I show that his 'variability' requirement is not necessary, because there are cases where someone can see an object even though the variability that Tye requires does not exist. (shrink)
Former discussions of biological generalizations have focused on the question of whether there are universal laws of biology. These discussions typically analyzed generalizations out of their investigative and explanatory contexts and concluded that whatever biological generalizations are, they are not universal laws. The aim of this paper is to explain what biological generalizations are by shifting attention towards the contexts in which they are drawn. I argue that within the context of any particular biological explanation or investigation, biologists employ two (...) types of generations. One type identifies causal regularities exhibited by particular kinds of biological entities. The other type identifies how these entities are distributed in the biological world. (shrink)
I examine the meaning and merits of a premise in the Exclusion Argument, the causal closure principle that all physical effects have physical causes. I do so by addressing two questions. First, if we grant the other premises, exactly what kind of closure principle is required to make the Exclusion Argument valid? Second, what are the merits of the requisite closure principle? Concerning the first, I argue that the Exclusion Argument requires a strong, “stringently pure” version of closure. The (...) latter employs two qualifications concerning the physical sufficiency and relative proximity of the physical cause required for every physical effect. The second question is addressed in two steps. I begin by challenging the adequacy of the empirical support offered by David Papineau for closure. Then I assess the merits of “level” and “domain” versions of stringently pure closure. I argue that a domain version lacks adequate and non-question-begging support within the context of the Exclusion Argument. And I argue that the level version leads to a puzzling metaphysics of the physical domain. Thus, we have grounds for rejecting the version of closure required for the Exclusion Argument. This means we can resist the Exclusion Argument while avoiding the implausible implications that come with rejecting one of its other premises. That is, because there are grounds to reject causal closure, one can reasonably affirm the non-overdeterminative causal efficacy of conscious mental states while denying that the latter are identical with physical states. (shrink)