Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (2):216 – 226 (2001)

Authors
Phil Dowe
Australian National University
Abstract
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)
Keywords 2203 Philosophy
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/713659223
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,360
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Causation and the Flow of Energy.David Fair - 1979 - Erkenntnis 14 (3):219 - 250.
Causality and Explanation: A Reply to Two Critiques.Wesley C. Salmon - 1997 - Philosophy of Science 64 (3):461-477.
Causality and Conserved Quantities: A Reply to Salmon.Phil Dowe - 1995 - Philosophy of Science 62 (2):321-333.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Being Positive About Negative Facts.Mark Jago & Stephen Barker - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (1):117-138.
Disconnection and Responsibility.Jonathan Schaffer - 2012 - Legal Theory 18 (4):399-435.

View all 60 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Dilemma for the Counterfactual Analysis of Causation.S. Barker - 2003 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (1):62 – 77.
Indeterminism, Counterfactuals, and Causation.Richard Otte - 1987 - Philosophy of Science 54 (1):45-62.
A Partial Theory of Actual Causation.Brad Weslake - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Can Counterfactuals Solve the Exclusion Problem?Lei Zhong - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (1):129-147.
Causes of Causes.Alex Broadbent - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 158 (3):457-476.
Double Prevention and Powers.Stephen Mumford & Rani Lill Anjum - 2009 - Journal of Critical Realism 8 (3):277-293.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total views
273 ( #34,647 of 2,448,892 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #141,898 of 2,448,892 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes