A dilemma for the counterfactual analysis of causation

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (1):62 – 77 (2003)
If we seek to analyse causation in terms of counterfactual conditionals then we must assume that there is a class of counterfactuals whose members (i) are all and only those we need to support our judgements of causation, (ii) have truth-conditions specifiable without any irreducible appeal to causation. I argue that (i) and (ii) are unlikely to be met by any counterfactual analysis of causation. I demonstrate this by isolating a class of counterfactuals called non-projective counterfactuals, or NP-counterfactuals, and indicate how counterfactual analyses of causation must appeal to them to account for the correct causal judgements we make. I show that the truth-conditions of NP-counterfactuals are specifiable only by irreducible appeal to causation. A dilemma then holds: if counterfactual analyses of causation eschew appeal to NP-counterfactuals they are empirically inadequate, but if they appeal to NP-counterfactuals they are circular and thus conceptually inadequate.
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DOI 10.1080/713659585
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