Erkenntnis 78 (2):215-235 (2013)

Alexander Reutlinger
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Matt Farr
Cambridge University
Bertrand Russell famously argued that causation is not part of the fundamental physical description of the world, describing the notion of cause as “a relic of a bygone age”. This paper assesses one of Russell’s arguments for this conclusion: the ‘Directionality Argument’, which holds that the time symmetry of fundamental physics is inconsistent with the time asymmetry of causation. We claim that the coherence and success of the Directionality Argument crucially depends on the proper interpretation of the ‘ time symmetry’ of fundamental physics as it appears in the argument, and offer two alternative interpretations. We argue that: if ‘ time symmetry’ is understood as the time -reversal invariance of physical theories, then the crucial premise of the Directionality Argument should be rejected; and if ‘ time symmetry’ is understood as the temporally bidirectional nomic dependence relations of physical laws, then the crucial premise of the Directionality Argument is far more plausible. We defend the second reading as continuous with Russell’s writings, and consider the consequences of the bidirectionality of nomic dependence relations in physics for the metaphysics of causation.
Keywords philosophy of time  causation  direction of time  Bertrand Russell  time symmetry  time reversal
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-013-9510-z
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References found in this work BETA

Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
The Direction of Time.Hans Reichenbach - 1956 - Dover Publications.
The Metaphysics Within Physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
The Cement of the Universe.J. L. Mackie - 1974 - Oxford, Clarendon Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Causation and Time Reversal.Matt Farr - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):177-204.
Microphysical Causation and the Case for Physicalism.Alyssa Ney - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (1):141-164.
Universality Caused: The Case of Renormalization Group Explanation.Emily Sullivan - 2019 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (3):36.
Physics and Causation.Thomas Blanchard - 2016 - Philosophy Compass 11 (5):256-266.

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