Authors
Max Kistler
University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Abstract
Most philosophers of physics are eliminativists about causation. Following Bertrand Russell’s lead, they think that causation is a folk concept that cannot be rationally reconstructed within a worldview informed by contemporary physics. Against this thesis, I argue that physics contributes to shaping the concept of causation, in two ways. 1. Special Relativity is a physical theory that expresses causal constraints. 2. The physical concept of a conserved quantity can be used in the functional reduction of the notion of causation. The empirical part of this reduction makes the hypothesis that the transference of an amount of a conserved quantity is a necessary and sufficient condition for causation. This hypothesis is defended against several objections from physics: that amounts of energy do not possess the appropriate identity conditions required for being able to be transmitted, that there is no universal principle of the conservation of energy in General Relativity, and that there are at least two types of physical systems in which causation does not involve any transference: entangled systems in quantum mechanics and the Aharanov-Bohm effect. In order to show that physics provides means to elaborate the concept of causation it is important to avoid certain misunderstandings. In particular, the claim that there is causation in a physical world does not mean that causation is an additional ingredient of the "furniture" of the world, over and above the ingredients identified by physics.
Keywords causation  eliminativism  relativity  functional reduction  transference
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Reprint years 2021
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DOI 10.1515/krt-2021-0003
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