Causal cognition and causal realism

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (2):151 – 167 (1999)
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Abstract

Recent research on “causal cognition” in adults and infants shows that we can perceive singular causal relations not previously experienced. In particular, infants that are able to perceive causality seem to rely on innate beliefs and principles that allow a priori inference of a connection between cause and effect. Can causal cognition in infants justify the thesis of causal realism? On the one hand, it weakens the central pillar of the Humean arguments: the impossibility of a synthetic a priori causal inference. On the other hand, if perception is the privileged way of justifying the reality of objects of the external world, that is valid in the case of causal relations as well. Moreover, the perception of causal relations, based on innate principles and beliefs, reflects the selective results of the interaction between the real constraints of the physical structure of the world and the evolution of the human mind.

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