Causation and Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Aachen University of Technology)
About this topic
Summary Many accounts of causation, i.e. theories that answer to the question when an event e can be said to have been caused by an event c, say that c-type events and e-type events have to be connected by a law of nature: a law that says that all C events are followed by E events. So, for example, saying that throwing this powder into this glass of water caused an explosion is, roughly, true only if it is a natural law that that kind of powder (magnesium, say) explodes when in contact with H2O. A contrary view says that causation is singular, i.e., whether two events are cause and effect, does not depend on the respective event kinds being related by a law.
Key works For the classic expression of the nomicity of causation see: Davidson 1995. For the locus classicus of the singularist account see: Ducasse 1966
Introductions Carroll 1994
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140 found
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  1. Causação e Física Clássica: existe possibilidade de conciliação?Túlio Roberto Xavier de Aguiar - 2012 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 16 (3):353-364.
    In this work, I analyze our concept of cause in the face of criticism of Bertrand Russell in his article “On the Notion of Cause”. For Russell, there is an estrangement between the notion of cause and mature science of physics. The word cause (and its correlates) would not be used in physics, thus eliminating the main justification of philosophy for his job—the foundation of science. Thus, the various causal notions and the principle of causality should be abandoned by philosophers (...)
  2. Causes and Laws in the Sciences of Man.Sara Albieri - 2011 - Kriterion: Revista de Filosofia 52 (124):331-342.
  3. Symposium: Are Causal Laws Purely General?Peter Alexander & Peter Downing - 1970 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 44:15 - 49.
    Peter Alexander: It is presumably admitted that laws, whether causal or not, are universal in form; they are appropriately stated in universal categoricals or unrestricted hypotheticals. I assume that this is not at issue in the question set. I take our question to be this: given that causal laws are universal statements, can they be said to be about, to apply to, to hold for, individual things? -/- Peter Downing: Mr. Alexander maintains that there are 'irreducibly singular' causal statements, and (...)
  4. Mechanisms, Laws, and Regularities.Holly Andersen - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (2):325-331.
    Leuridan (2010) argued that mechanisms cannot provide a genuine alternative to laws of nature as a model of explanation in the sciences, and advocates Mitchell’s (1997) pragmatic account of laws. I first demonstrate that Leuridan gets the order of priority wrong between mechanisms, regularity, and laws, and then make some clarifying remarks about how laws and mechanisms relate to regularities. Mechanisms are not an explanatory alternative to regularities; they are an alternative to laws. The existence of stable regularities in nature (...)
  5. Naturgesetze in einer kausalen Welt.Bartels Andreas - 2015 - mentis.
    How can the laws of nature, that determine how objects behave, be understood as natural objects themselves? The answer that transpires from the analysis of modern theories of the laws of nature is: laws of nature are due to the causal structure of our world. They express the causal efficiacy of fundamental properties of nature. In contrast to rivaling theories, this answer does justice to the fact that laws of nature determine the course of natural events without having to appeal (...)
  6. Frank Plumpton Ramsey.Brad Armendt - 2005 - In Sahotra Sarkar & Jessica Pfeifer (eds.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 671-681.
  7. Singular Causation and Laws of Nature.D. M. Armstrong - 1997 - In John Earman & John Norton (eds.), The Cosmos of Science. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 498--511.
  8. The Open Door: Counterfactual Versus Singularist Theories of Causation.David M. Armstrong - 1999 - In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 175--185.
  9. Classifying Contingency in the Social Sciences: Diachronic, Synchronic, and Deterministic Contingency.Clint Ballinger - unknown
    This article makes three claims concerning the concept of contingency. First, we argue that the word contingency is used in far too many ways to be useful. Its many meanings are detrimental to clarity of discussion and thought in history and the social sciences. We show how there are eight distinct uses of the word and illustrate this with numerous examples from the social sciences and history, highlighting the scope for confusion caused by the many, often contradictory uses of the (...)
  10. Initial Conditions and the 'Open Systems' Argument Against Laws of Nature.Clint Ballinger - 2008 - Metaphysica 9 (1):17-31.
    This article attacks “open systems” arguments that because constant conjunctions are not generally observed in the real world of open systems we should be highly skeptical that universal laws exist. This work differs from other critiques of open system arguments against laws of nature by not focusing on laws themselves, but rather on the inference from open systems. We argue that open system arguments fail for two related reasons; 1) because they cannot account for the “systems” central to their argument (...)
  11. Initial Conditions as Exogenous Factors in Spatial Explanation.Clint Ballinger - 2008 - Dissertation, University of Cambridge
    This dissertation shows how initial conditions play a special role in the explanation of contingent and irregular outcomes, including, in the form of geographic context, the special case of uneven development in the social sciences. The dissertation develops a general theory of this role, recognizes its empirical limitations in the social sciences, and considers how it might be applied to the question of uneven development. The primary purpose of the dissertation is to identify and correct theoretical problems in the study (...)
  12. Regularity Theories Reassessed.Michael Baumgartner - 2006 - Philosophia 36 (3):327-354.
    For a long time, regularity accounts of causation have virtually vanished from the scene. Problems encountered within other theoretical frameworks have recently induced authors working on causation, laws of nature, or methodologies of causal reasoning – as e.g. May (Kausales Schliessen. Eine Untersuchung über kausale Erklärungen und Theorienbildung. Ph.D. thesis, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, 1999), Ragin (Fuzzy-set social science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), Graßhoff and May (Causal regularities. In W. Spohn, M. Ledwig, & M. Esfeld (Eds.), Current issues in (...)
  13. Is the Case for Social Science Laws Strengthening?Clive Beed & Cara Beed - 2000 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 30 (2):131–153.
  14. Ontic Structural Realism and Modality.Nora Berenstain & James Ladyman - 2012 - In Elaine Landry & Dean Rickles (eds.), Structural Realism: Structure, Object, and Causality. Springer.
    There is good reason to believe that scientific realism requires a commitment to the objective modal structure of the physical world. Causality, equilibrium, laws of nature, and probability all feature prominently in scientific theory and explanation, and each one is a modal notion. If we are committed to the content of our best scientific theories, we must accept the modal nature of the physical world. But what does the scientific realist’s commitment to physical modality require? We consider whether scientific realism (...)
  15. The Certainty, Modality, and Grounding of Newton’s Laws.Zvi Biener & Eric Schliesser - 2017 - The Monist 100 (3):311-325.
    Newton began his Principia with three Axiomata sive Leges Motus. We offer an interpretation of Newton’s dual label and investigate two tensions inherent in his account of laws. The first arises from the juxtaposition of Newton’s confidence in the certainty of his laws and his commitment to their variability and contingency. The second arises because Newton ascribes fundamental status both to the laws and to the bodies and forces they govern. We argue the first is resolvable, but the second is (...)
  16. Douglas Kutach: Causation and Its Basis in Fundamental Physics. [REVIEW]Thomas Blanchard - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (2):330-333,.
  17. Reply: Causation and Two Kinds of Laws.Ned Block - 1995 - In Cynthia Macdonald & Graham Macdonald (eds.), Philosophy of Psychology: Debates on Psychological Explanation. Blackwell. pp. 78--83.
  18. Is There an Intrinsic Criterion for Causal Lawlike Statements?Julien Blondeau & Michel Ghins - 2012 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (4):381-401.
    A scientific mathematical law is causal if and only if it is a process law that contains a time derivative. This is the intrinsic criterion for causal laws we propose. A process is a space-time line along which some properties are conserved or vary. A process law contains a time variable, but only process laws that contain a time derivative are causal laws. An effect is identified with what corresponds to a time derivative of some property or magnitude in a (...)
  19. A Priori Causal Laws.Darren Bradley - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (4):358-370.
    Sober and Elgin defend the claim that there are a priori causal laws in biology. Lange and Rosenberg take issue with this on Humean grounds, among others. I will argue that Sober and Elgin don’t go far enough – there are a priori causal laws in many sciences. Furthermore, I will argue that this thesis is compatible with a Humean metaphysics and an empiricist epistemology.
  20. DUCASSE, C. J. -Causation and the Types of Necessity. [REVIEW]R. B. Braithwaite - 1924 - Mind 33:460.
  21. Book Review:The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation J. L. Mackie. [REVIEW]Myles Brand - 1975 - Philosophy of Science 42 (3):335-.
  22. Laws of nature and causal powers: Two illusory solutions.Sebastián Briceño - 2015 - Alpha (Osorno) 41:73-85.
    La metafísica de la Superveniencia Humeana ha sido atacada por dos alternativas explícitamente anti-Humeanas: el Realismo Nómico y el Esencialismo Disposicional. Cada una de estas alternativas ofrece una explicación ontológica de la actual distribución de instanciaciones de primer orden. Ambas sostienen, contra el Humeano, que esta distribución no es un accidente metafísico. En este artículo argumento que las explicaciones ofrecidas por ellas son ilusorias. -/- The metaphysics of Humean Supervenience has been attacked by two explicitly anti-Humean alternatives: Nomic Realism and (...)
  23. Causality, Causal Laws and Scientific Theory in the Philosophy of Kant.Gerd Buchdahl - 1965 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 16 (63):187-208.
  24. Causes and Laws: The Asymmetry Puzzle.Henry Byerly - 1990 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:545 - 555.
    For many laws causal asymmetries in dependencies among the variables are not reflected in functional relations of the law equation. In the case of the simple pendulum law, why can we cite the length to explain the period but not the period to explain the length? After surveying attempts to explain the asymmetries, I propose a new account based on an analysis of the relation of causes and laws. This analysis is used to criticize the very notion of causal laws (...)
  25. Laws of Nature.John W. Carroll - 1994 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    John Carroll undertakes a careful philosophical examination of laws of nature, causation, and other related topics. He argues that laws of nature are not susceptible to the sort of philosophical treatment preferred by empiricists. Indeed he shows that emperically pure matters of fact need not even determine what the laws are. Similar, even stronger, conclusions are drawn about causation. Replacing the traditional view of laws and causation requiring some kind of foundational legitimacy, the author argues that these phenomena are inextricably (...)
  26. Laws of Nature.John W. Carroll - 1994 - Cambridge University Press.
    John Carroll undertakes a careful philosophical examination of laws of nature, causation, and other related topics. He argues that laws of nature are not susceptible to the sort of philosophical treatment preferred by empiricists. Indeed he shows that emperically pure matters of fact need not even determine what the laws are. Similar, even stronger, conclusions are drawn about causation. Replacing the traditional view of laws and causation requiring some kind of foundational legitimacy, the author argues that these phenomena are inextricably (...)
  27. In Defence of `This Worldly' Causality: Comments on Van Fraassen's Laws and Symmetry.Nancy Cartwright - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):423-429.
  28. The Reality of Causes in a World of Instrumental Laws.Nancy Cartwright - 1980 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:38 - 48.
    Philosophers of science nowadays are inclined to believe in physical laws, but generally, like Hume and Russell, to reject causes. This paper urges the reverse. Explanatory practice in physics argues that we must take literally the causal stories that our theories provide, but the fundamental laws and equations that are essential to modern science are merely instrumental.
  29. Causal Laws and Effective Strategies.Nancy Cartwright - 1979 - Noûs 13 (4):419-437.
    La autora presenta algunas criticas generales al proyecto de reducir las leyes causales a probabilidades. Además, muestra que las leyes causales son imprescindibles para poder diferenciar las strategias efectivas de las que no lo son y da un criterio para considerar cuando podemos deducir causalidad a través de datos estadísticos.
  30. Hunting Causes and Using Them: Is There No Bridge From Here to There?Nancy Cartwright & Sophia Efstathiou - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (3):223 - 241.
    Causation is in trouble?at least as it is pictured in current theories in philosophy and in economics as well, where causation is also once again in fashion. In both disciplines the accounts of causality on offer are either modelled too closely on one or another favoured method for hunting causes or on assumptions about the uses to which causal knowledge can be put?generally for predicting the results of our efforts to change the world. The first kind of account supplies no (...)
  31. Causal Dependence and Laws.F. John Clendinnen - 1999 - In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 187--213.
  32. Locke and the Laws of Nature.Patrick J. Connolly - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (10):2551-2564.
    Many commentators have argued that Locke understood laws of nature as causally efficacious. On this view the laws are causally responsible for the production of natural phenomena. This paper argues that this interpretation faces serious difficulties. First, I argue that it will be very difficult to specify the ontological status of these laws. Proponents of the view suggest that these laws are divine volitions. But I argue that this will be difficult or impossible to square with Locke’s nominalism. Second, I (...)
  33. Review of Donald Davidson's Truth, Language, and History. [REVIEW]John R. Cook - 2006 - Philosophy in Review (6):399-401.
    Language, Truth, and History is an excellent volume of essays coming from one of the most important philosophers in the last fifty years. It would be of interest to anyone interested in the ways Davidson's philosophy evolved after the publication of the first two volumes, and it is essential reading for anyone working in philosophy of language or philosophy of mind.
  34. Causal Realism and the Laws of Nature.Richard Corry - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (3):261-276.
    This paper proposes a revision of our understanding of causation that is designed to address what Hartry Field has suggested is the central problem in the metaphysics of causation today: reconciling Bertrand Russell’s arguments that the concept of causation can play no role in the advanced sciences with Nancy Cartwright’s arguments that causal concepts are essential to a scientific understanding of the world. The paper shows that Russell’s main argument is, ironically, very similar to an argument that Cartwright has put (...)
  35. Causal Realism and the Laws of Nature.Richard Corry, Robert N. Brandon, H. Frederik Nijhout, Richard Dawid, Ron Mallon, Jonathan M. Weinberg & Hong Yu Wong - 2006 - In Borchert (ed.), Philosophy of Science. Macmillan. pp. 261-276.
    This paper proposes a revision of our understanding of causation that is designed to address what Hartry Field has suggested is the central problem in the metaphysics of causation today: reconciling Bertrand Russell’s arguments that the concept of causation can play no role in the advanced sciences with Nancy Cartwright’s arguments that causal concepts are essential to a scientific understanding of the world. The paper shows that Russell’s main argument is, ironically, very similar to an argument that Cartwright has put (...)
  36. Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy, by Walter Ott.Joseph K. Cosgrove - 2012 - International Philosophical Quarterly 52 (3):379-381.
  37. Causation and Laws of Nature.Barry Dainton - 2009 - In John Shand (ed.), Central Issues in Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
  38. Laws and Cause.Donald Davidson - 1995 - Dialectica 49 (2-4):263-79.
    Anomalous Monism is the view that mental entities are identical with physical entities, but that the vocabulary used to describe, predict and explain mental events is neither definitionally nor nomologically reducible to the vocabulary of physics. The argument for Anomalous Monism rests in part on the claim that every true singular causal statement relating two events is backed by a law that covers those events when those events are appropriately described. This paper attempts to clarify and defend this claim by (...)
  39. On the Nature of Scientific Laws and Theories.Craig Dilworth - 1989 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 20 (1):1-17.
    Ist der Unterschied zwischen wissenschaftlichen Gesetzen und Theorien ein qualitativer oder lediglich von quantitativer Art? Der Autor versucht zu zeigen, daß Gesetze und Theorien fundamental verschieden sind und daß die Kenntnis ihrer verschiedenen Natur notwendig für ein richtiges Wissenschaftsverständnis ist. Aus seiner Sicht sind Theorien geistige Konstruktionen mit dem Ziel, kausale Erklärungen von empirischen Gesetzen zu geben, während diese Gesetze auf der Grundlage von Messungen entdeckt werden und die Tatsachen der Wissenschaft konstituieren. Erkenntnistheoretisch sind daher Theorien und Gesetze auf verschiedenen (...)
  40. The Conserved Quantity Theory Defended.Phil Dowe - 2000 - Theoria 15 (1):11-31.
    I defend the conserved quantity theory of causation against two objections: firstly, that to tie the notion of “cause” to conservation laws is impossible, circular or metaphysically counterintuitive; and secondly, that the conserved quantity theory entails an undesired notion of identity through time. My defence makes use of an important meta-philosophical distinction between empirical analysis and conceptual analysis. My claim is that the conserved quantity theory of causation must be understood primarily as an empirical, not a conceptual, analysis of causation.
  41. Book Review:The Facts of Causation D. H. Mellor. [REVIEW]Phil Dowe - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (1):162-.
  42. Causal Necessity and the Future: Two Views.Steven M. Duncan - manuscript
    In this paper I offer an alternative to the standard, mechanistic/fatalistic account of causal necessity, one compatible with the existence of laws of nature but not deterministic in the way this is usually understood.
  43. Causality, Determinism and Probability.J. E. Moyal - 1949 - Philosophy 24 (91):310 - 317.
    The prediction of future events from our knowledge of past events is one of the main functions of Science. Such predictions are made possible by inferring causal relations between events from observed regularities. These relations are then codified into “laws of nature,” and it is through knowledge of these laws that prediction becomes possible. The concept of “causal relation” is thus a fundamental one in the structure of science. Now recent advances in physics have led scientists to modify considerably their (...)
  44. The Cosmos of Science.John Earman & John Norton (eds.) - 1997 - University of Pittsburgh Press.
    The inaugural volume of the series, devoted to the work of philosopher Adolf Grünbaum, encompasses the philosophical problems of space, time, and cosmology, the ...
  45. Causality. A Law of Nature or a Maxim of the Naturalist? By L. Silberstein, Ph.D. (London: Macmillan & Co. 1933. Pp. Viii + 159. Price 4s. 6d.). [REVIEW]A. S. Eddington - 1933 - Philosophy 8 (32):486-.
  46. Explanation, Causation and Laws.Dorothy Edgington - 1990 - Critica 22 (66):55-73.
  47. Causal Laws and Laws of Association.Frederick S. Ellett & David P. Ericson - 1985 - Noûs 19 (4):537 - 549.
    In her paper entitled "Causal Laws and Effective Strategies" (1979), Cartwright sets out to establish the connection between laws of association and causal laws. In part Cartwright is trying to show the sense in which a cause increases the probability of its effect, and to explain what causal laws assert by giving an account of how causal laws are related to certain kinds of statistical laws. In section II we explicate the essential features of Cartwright's for- mulation and in section (...)
  48. Causal Laws and Singular Causation.Brian Ellis - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (2):329-351.
    In this paper it will be argued that causal laws describe the actions of causal powers. The process which results from such an action is one which belongs to a natural kind, the essence of which is that it is a display of this causal power. Therefore, if anything has a given causal power necessarily, it must be naturally disposed to act in the manner prescribed by the causal law describing the action of this causal power. In the formal expressions (...)
  49. Explaining Experience In Nature: The Foundations Of Logic And Apprehension.Steven Ericsson-Zenith - forthcoming - Institute for Advanced Science & Engineering.
    At its core this book is concerned with logic and computation with respect to the mathematical characterization of sentient biophysical structure and its behavior. -/- Three related theories are presented: The first of these provides an explanation of how sentient individuals come to be in the world. The second describes how these individuals operate. And the third proposes a method for reasoning about the behavior of individuals in groups. -/- These theories are based upon a new explanation of experience in (...)
  50. Causal Overdetermination for Humeans?Michael Esfeld - 2010 - Metaphysica 11 (2):99-104.
    The paper argues against systematic overdetermination being an acceptable solution to the problem of mental causation within a Humean counterfactual theory of causation. The truth-makers of the counterfactuals in question include laws of nature, and there are laws that support physical to physical counterfactuals, but no laws in the same sense that support mental to physical counterfactuals.
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