Essay review: Cause and chance: Causation in an indeterministic world, Phil Dowe and Paul Noordhof, eds., Routledge, 2004

For most of the contributions to this volume, the project is this: Fill out “Event X is a cause of event Y if and only if……” where the dots on the right are to be filled in by a claims formulated in terms using any of (1) descriptions of possible worlds and their relations; (2) a special predicate, “is a law;” (3) “chances;” and (4) anything else one thinks one needs. The form of analysis is roughly the same as that sought in the Meno, and the methodology is likewise Socratic—proposals, examples, counterexamples, more proposals. The norms of the enterprise seem to be as follows (i) a proposal is defeated if someone can imagine a circumstance in which it would be false, or perhaps if one can imagine such a circumstance that is not obviously inconsistent with physical laws; (ii) approximately correct solutions, those which cover most but not all cases, are of no value unless they can be modified to cover all cases; (iii) no account is required of how the relations in the right hand side of a proposed analysis could be known or reliably..
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