In this article I try to give an account of the meaning of phrases of the form ‘A causes B’ as they are most usefully used in everyday life and the applied sciences. This account covers narrower uses of such phrases, but we find that in our usage of the term, ‘A causes B’ neither entails nor is entailed by ‘A is always followed by B’. Logically necessary and sufficient conditions of this general term can be given, however, by reference to particular cases of causation. The analysis of these is shown to be irreducibly counter-factual, i.e. such phrases are not definable in terms of statements describing those observable occurrences which constitute the relevant verificationary processes. Some objections to the analysis are considered, and it is tested against various examples. * Received 6.xii.65 1 This article is an expanded version of a paper read to the British Society for the Philosophy of Science at Bristol in September 1964. I have greatly benefited from criticisms and suggestions by members of the philosophy seminar of the University of Durham, especially Dr Doreen Bretherton, and also by Professor J. L. Mackie and the editor and referees of this Journal.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/18.1.1
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