Causal Overdetermination: Still Crazy After All These Years. Part I: What Is at Stake?

Philosophical Forum 49 (2):231-244 (2018)


Causal overdetermination occupies an uncomfortable place within all the major theories of causation. A natural solution to the problems it gives rise to would be to resolve overdetermination into preemption or joint causation. However, such a solution would seem to lead to individuate events in a fragile manner. The issue of such modal fragility is addressed and it is argued that events designated as effects are always fragile in a natural way and the putative problems of adopting modal fragility can be resolved. It is also studied whether causal overdetermination could work in a setting where the overdetermining causes occur in different levels of reality. Typically postulated higher-level causes are shown to contradict the definitional features of overdetermination. There is thus no reasonable role for causal overdetermination and the notion should be abandoned.

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