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.
The physical and/or intrinsic connection approach to causation has become prominent in the recent literature, with Salmon, Dowe, Menzies, and Armstrong among its leading proponents. I show that there is a type of causation, causation by disconnection, with no physical or intrinsic connection between cause and effect. Only Hume-style conditions approaches and hybrid conditions-connections approaches appear to be able to handle causation by disconnection. Some Hume-style, extrinsic, absence-relating, necessary and/or sufficient condition component of the causal relation (...) proves to be needed. (shrink)
Folk theories—untutored people’s (often implicit) theories about various features of the world—have been fashionable objects of inquiry in psychology for almost two decades now (e.g., Hirschfeld and Gelman 1994), and more recently they have been of interest in experimental philosophy (Nichols 2004). Folk theories of psy- chology, physics, biology, and ethics have all come under investigation. Folk meta- physics, however, has not been as extensively studied. That so little is known about folk metaphysics is unfortunate for (at least) two reasons. (...) First, folk metaphysics is almost certainly implicit, and it is likely to be our default way of thinking about metaphysical problems. Moreover, one’s metaphysical commitments can have pro- found consequences—in scientiﬁc, religious, and ethical contexts, for example. Thus, folk metaphysics ought to be dragged out into the open and exposed to criticism. As Peirce eloquently remarked (1994, 1.129; see also 1994, 7.579). (shrink)
Butterfield's (1992a,b,c) claim of the equivalence of absence of Lewisian probabilistic counterfactual causality (LC) to Hellman's stochastic Einstein locality (SEL) is questioned. Butterfield's assumption on which the proof of his claim is based would suffice to prove that SEL implies absence of LC also for appropriately given versions of these notions in algebraic quantum field theory, but the assumption is not an admissible one. The conclusion must be that the relation of SEL and absence of LC is open, and that (...) they may be independent. (shrink)
Some omissions seem to be causes. For example, suppose Barry promises to water Alice’s plant, doesn’t water it, and that the plant then dries up and dies. Barry’s not watering the plant – his omitting to water the plant – caused its death. But there is reason to believe that if omissions are ever causes, then there is far more causation by omission than we ordinarily think. In other words, there is reason to think the following thesis true.
There is, no doubt, a temptation to treat preventions, such as ‘the father’s grabbing the child prevented the accident’, and cases of ‘causation’ by omission, such as ‘the father’s inattention was the cause of the child’s accident’, as cases of genuine causation. I think they are not, and in this paper I defend a theory of what they are. More specifically, the counterfactual theory defended here is that a claim about prevention or ‘causation’ by omission should be (...) understood not as being directly about actual genuine causation but primarily as a counterfactual claim about genuine causation.1 The relation between actual causation and the mere possibility of causation allows my theory to explain both the difference and the similarity between the two notions (causation and prevention/omission). Further, the difference explains certain intuitions we have and the similarity justifies and explains the fact that for practical purposes we usually treat preventions and omissions as if they were genuine causation. Finally, the fact that this counterfactual theory of prevention and omission takes causation as primitive suggests that it is consistent with any theory of causation. This allows us to construct two arguments against what I will call genuinism, the view that cases of prevention and ‘causation’ by omission really are cases of genuine causation. In section II I show that genuinism does not account for the so-called intuition of difference. In section III I outline a number of problems that various theories of causation have with preventions and ‘causation’ by omission. These problems are ipso facto problems for genuinism, whereas I show in section V how the counterfactual theory solves those problems. Further, I answer a genuinist argument based on another type of intuition—the genuinist intuition—by showing why we have that intuition and how it should be handled (section VI). (shrink)
This essay is concerned with concentrations of entities, which play an important—albeit often overlooked—role in scientific explanation. First, I discuss an example from molecular biology to show that concentrations can play an irreducible causal role. Second, I provide a preliminary philosophical analysis of this causal role, suggesting some implications for extant theories of causation. I conclude by introducing the concept of causation by concentration, a form of statistical causation whose widespread presence throughout the sciences has been unduly (...) neglected and which deserves to be studied in more depth. 1 Introduction2 Solving Lillie's Paradox: Lysogenic Induction in Phage λ3 Repressor Concentration and the Tuning of the Switch4 Concentration and Causality5 Preemption in Concentrations: Analysis and Implications6 Causation by Concentration: General Definition, Refinements, and Further Applications. (shrink)
The standard paradigm for mental causation is a person’s acting for a reason. Something happens - she intentionally φ’s - the occurrence of which we explain by citing a relevant belief or desire. In the present context, I simply take for granted the following two conditions on the appropriateness of this explanation. First, the agent φ’s _because_ she believes/desires what we say she does, where this is expressive of a _causal_ dependence.1 Second, her believing/desiring this gives her a _reason_ (...) for φ-ing: recognizing that she has this belief/desire makes her φ-ing intelligible as rational in the light of her other attitudes and circumstances. A further condition must be met, though, if this is to be a genuine psychological explanation, a case of her acting _for_ the reason in question. Consider the following example of Davidson’s (1973, p. 79). An exhausted climber is desperate to rid herself of the weight and danger of holding her partner on a rope; and her sudden realization that simply letting go would achieve this so unnerves her that her grip loosens slightly and he falls. Her releasing him causally depends upon her having this belief and desire, which provide _a_ reason for doing what she does. But this is not _why_ she does it: it would be at best misleading to say that she dropped him, intentionally, because she was fed up with holding his weight, or because she thought that she might otherwise fall. Her letting go does not depend upon her having these reasons in the right way. The reason-giving relation is causally irrelevant. If we are to explain a person’s acting _for_ a reason, then her doing. (shrink)
We present a probabilistic extension to active path analyses of token causation (Halpern & Pearl 2001, forthcoming; Hitchcock 2001). The extension uses the generalized notion of intervention presented in (Korb et al. 2004): we allow an intervention to set any probability distribution over the intervention variables, not just a single value. The resulting account can handle a wide range of examples. We do not claim the account is complete --- only that it fills an obvious gap in previous active-path (...) approaches. It still succumbs to recent counterexamples by Hiddleston (2005), because it does not explicitly consider causal processes. We claim three benefits: a detailed comparison of three active-path approaches, a probabilistic extension for each, and an algorithmic formulation. (shrink)
Philosophers of science today by and large reject the cataclysmic and irrational interpretation of the scientific enterprise claimed by Kuhn. Many computational models have been implemented to rationally study the conceptual change in science. In this recent tradition a key role is played by the concept of abduction as a mechanism by which new explanatory hypotheses are introduced. Nevertheless some problems in describing the most interesting abductive issues rise from the classical computational approach. It describes a cognitive process (and so (...) abduction) by the manipulation of internal symbolic representations of external world. This view assumes a discrete set of representations fixed in discrete time jumps, and cannot adequately account for the issue of anticipation and causation of a new hypothesis. An integration of the traditional computational view with some ideas developed inside the so-called dynamical approach can suggest some important insights. The concept of attractor is very significant. It permits a description of the abductive generation of new hypotheses in terms of a catastrophic rearrangement of the parameters responsible for the behavior of the system. (shrink)
In discussions on mental causation and externalism, it is often assumed that extrinsic, or relational, properties cannot have causal efficacy. In this paper I argue that this assumption is based on a category mistake, in that causal efficacy (dependence among events or states of affairs) is confused with causal influence (persistence of and interaction among objects). I then argue that relational properties are indeed causally efficacious, which I explain with the help of Dretske's notion of a 'structuring cause'.
I focus on token, deterministic causal claims as they feature in causal explanations. Adequately handling absences is difficult for most causal theories, including theories of causal explanation. Yet so is adequately handling cases of late preemption. The best account of absence-causal claims as they appear in causal explanations is Jonathan Schaffer's quaternary, contrastive account. Yet Schaffer's account cannot handle preemption. The account that best handles late preemption is James Woodward's interventionist account. Yet Woodward's account is inadequate when it comes (...) to absences. I propose an account that handles both absences and preemption by transposing Schaffer's account into an interventionist framework. (shrink)
My project in this paper is to extend the interventionist analysis of causation to give an account of causation in psychology. Many aspects of empirical investigation into psychological causation fit straightforwardly into the interventionist framework. I address three problems. First, the problem of explaining what it is for a causal relation to be properly psychological rather than merely biological. Second, the problem of rational causation: how it is that reasons can be causes. Finally, I look at (...) the implications of an interventionist analysis for the idea that an inquiry into psychological causes must be an inquiry into causal mechanisms. I begin by setting out the main ideas of the interventionist approach. (shrink)
This is an excellent book that deserves careful attention from anyone whose work touches on issues in the philosophy of mind and action. In it, Marcus challenges the dominant philosophical conception of the mind’s place in nature, according to which mentalistic explanations hold true only when mental states or events cause things to happen in the same way as physical states and events do. Against this conception, Marcus argues that mental causation is utterly dissimilar to most of the (...) class='Hi'>causation we find in the physical realm, and that psychological achievements like believing and acting for reasons should be understood as manifestations of the rational ability self-consciously to represent good-making relations as holding between propositions and actions. (shrink)
If _presentism_ is true, then no wholly non-present events exist. If _absence orthodoxy_ is true, then no absences exist. I discuss a well-known causal argument against presentism, and develop a very similar argument against absence orthodoxy. I argue that solutions to the argument against absence orthodoxy can be adopted by the presentist as solutions to the argument against presentism. The upshot is that if the argument against absence orthodoxy fails, then so does the argument against presentism.
A major criticism of David Lewis’ counterfactual theory of causation is that it allows too many things to count as causes, especially since Lewis allows, in addition to events, absences to be causes as well. Peter Menzies has advanced this concern under the title “the problem of profligate causation.” In this paper, I argue that the problem of profligate causation provides resources for exposing a tension between Lewis’ acceptance of absence causation and his modal realism. (...) The result is a different problem of profligate causation—one that attacks the internal consistency of Lewisian metaphysics rather than employing common sense judgments or intuitions that conflict with Lewis’ extensive list of causes. (shrink)
I argue that so-called ‘absence causation’must be treated in terms of counterfactuals about causation such as ‘had a occurred, a would have caused b’. First, I argue that some theories of causation that accept absence causation are unattractive because they undermine the idea of possible causation. And second, I argue that accepting absence causation violates a principle commonly associated with relativity.
This is an outstanding anthology. It contains extended reflections on Russell’s idea that our notion of causation is a relic of stone-age metaphysics, which fails to fit contemporary physics and thus deserves elimination (‘On the Notion of Cause’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 13, 1913, pp. 1–26). It will be of interest to anyone interested in causation or the physical image of the world, and to anyone interested in reconciling the manifest and scientific images.
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)