Probabilistic cause and the thirsty traveler

Journal of Philosophical Logic 31 (2):139-179 (2002)
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Abstract

In this paper I start by briefly presenting an analysis of token cause and of token causal relevance that I developed elsewhere, and then apply it to the famous thirsty traveler riddle. One general outcome of the analysis of causal relevance employed here is that in preemption cases (early or late) the preempted cause is not a cause since it is causally irrelevant to the effect. I consider several variations of the thirsty traveler riddle. In the first variation the first enemy emptied the canteen and the second enemy threw it away. On this variation, the act of neither enemy comes out, on the analysis employed here, as causally relevant to, and thus not as a cause of, the fact that the traveler died, but the conjunction of the two acts is a cause of it. This version is a case of mutual preemption. I argue that it has the same structure as the voting paradox, which thus has an analogous solution. In the standard version, in which the first enemy added poison to the water in the traveler's canteen, the act of the second enemy (who threw the canteen away) comes out, on the analysis used here, as causally relevant to and as a cause of the fact that the traveler died, but the act of the first enemy comes out as neither. I also make a comparison with Lewis' accounts, and discuss alternative treatments of the puzzle such as those of Hart and Honore and of Gavison, Margalit, and Ullmann-Margalit

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Igal Kvart
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Citations of this work

Moral Luck and Deviant Causation.Sara Bernstein - 2019 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 43 (1):151-161.
Degrees of influence and the problem of pre-emption.Cei Maslen - 2004 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (4):577 – 594.

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