The Causal Theory of Properties

Dissertation, UCL (2003)
Abstract
This thesis investigates the causal theory of properties (CTP). CTP states that properties must be understood via the complicated network of causal relations to which a property can contribute. If an object instantiates the property of being 900C, for instance, it will burn human skin on contact, feel warm to us if near, etc. In order to best understand CTP, I argue that we need to distinguish between properties and particular instances of them. Properties should be analysed via the causal relations their instances stand in, it is this oven’s being 900C which causes my skin to burn, etc. The resulting CTP offers an illuminating analysis of properties. First, it provides a criterion of identity for properties, their identity being analysed via the causal roles property instances realise. It also offers an account of how property instances are sorted into genuine kinds, in cases of determinables and determinates. I show how we can distinguish between genuine and non-genuine similarity via the property instances of objects. The implications of CTP for an analysis of causation are then investigated. I argue that the proposed CTP offers a plausible causal ontology. The fine-grainedness of property instances enables us to capture the subtleties involved in questions concerning what causes what. But, even more importantly, CTP enables us to reconcile two highly attractive theses concerning the causal relation. The first of these is the generalist’s thesis. This states that causal relations are part of more general patterns. The second of these is the singularist’s thesis. This states that the causal connection between two entities, doesn’t depend upon anything extraneous to that relation. I argue that by combining CTP with an ontology of tropes, we can thereby respect what is driving both singularism and generalism.Logic & Metaphysics.
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