Jenann Ismael
Columbia University
Philosophers of mind tend to take it for granted that causal relations are part of the mind-independent, objective fabric of the physical world. In fact, their status has been hotly contested since Russell famously observed that the closest thing to causal relations in physics are timesymmetric dynamical laws relating global time slices of world-history. 1 These bear a distant relationship to the local, asymmetric relations that form the core of the folk notion of cause. Nancy Cartwright, in an influential response, agreed about the absence of causal relations from physics, but argued that Russell’s position was not viable because agents choosing among potential actions need specifically causal information to distinguish effective from ineffective strategies for bringing about ends. 2 Causal beliefs play an ineliminable role in practical deliberation In recent years, there has been a great deal of progress in understanding the relationship between causal concepts and the dynamical laws that appear in advanced physics, together with a proliferation of new tools for representing and discovering causal structure
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