Resemblance-based resources for reductive singularism (or: How to be a Humean singularist about causation)

The Monist 92 (1):153-190 (2009)
Hume argued that experience could not justify commonly held beliefs in singular causal effcacy, according to which individual or singular causes produce their effects or make their effects happen. Hume's discussion has been influential, as motivating the view that Causal reductionism (denying that causal efficacy is an irreducible feature of natural reality) requires Causal generalism (according to which causal relations are metaphysically constituted by patterns of events). Here I argue that causal reductionists---indeed, Hume himself---have previously unappreciated resources for making sense of Causal singularism, associated with a relation that has been curiously underexploited in the causation debates: resemblance. The core idea I explore here is that causation may be metaphysically and epistemologically indicated by the coming-to-be of a resemblance. Comings-to-be of resemblances are epistemically available in the singular instance, even by Hume's strict lights, and, I argue, can justify (albeit fallibly) belief in the holding of singular causal relations; hence Hume's general argument for generalism fails. More to the contemporary metaphysical point, comings-to-be of resemblances provide valuable resources for existing singularist accounts: while neither changes (Ducasse) nor transfers of physical quantities (Fair, Dowe, Salmon) provide a suffciently fine-grained basis for the individuation of causes, either changes or transfers, in combination with comings-to-be of resemblances, can do so.
Keywords causation  singlarist causation  transfer accounts  causal reductionism  causal generalism  Ehring  Dowe  Salmon  Hume  resemblance
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DOI 10.5840/monist20099218
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