If counterfactual dependence is sufficient for causation and if omissions can be causes, then all events have many more causes than common sense tends to recognize. This problem is standardly addressed by appeal to pragmatics. However, Carolina Sartorio  has recently raised what I shall argue is a more interesting problem concerning omissions for counterfactual theories of causation—more interesting because it demands a more subtle pragmatic solution. I discuss the relationship between the idea that causes are proportional to their effects, (...) the idea that causation is contrastive, and the question of the dimensions along which causal explanations should be evaluated with respect to one another. (shrink)
One part of the true theory of actual causation is a set of conditions responsible for eliminating all of the non-causes of an effect that can be discerned at the level of counterfactual structure. I defend a proposal for this part of the theory.
One of the most striking features of causation is that causes typically precede their effects – the causal arrow is strongly aligned with the temporal arrow. Why should this be so? We offer an opinionated guide to this problem, and to the solutions currently on offer. We conclude that the most promising strategy is to begin with the de facto asymmetry of human deliberation, characterised in epistemic terms, and to build out from there. More than any rival, this subjectivist approach (...) promises to demystify the asymmetry, temporal orientation, and deliberative relevance of causal judgements. (shrink)
Consider the following causal exclusion principle: For all distinct properties F and F* such that F* supervenes on F, F and F* do not both cause a property G. Peter Menzies and Christian List have proven that it follows from a natural conception of causation as difference-making that this exclusion principle is not generally true. Rather, it turns out that whether the principle is true is a contingent matter. In addition, they have shown that in a wide range of empirically (...) ordinary cases, it follows that F* causes G and F does not. These cases plausibly include instances where F* is a mental property and F and G are physical properties. If this is the right conception of causation, it therefore turns out that the physical world is not causally closed. In this paper I show that there is an alternative conception of causation as difference-making that does not have the same consequences. Whether the physical world is causally closed therefore turns out to depend, inter alia, on which conception of difference-making is correct. I give a number of arguments for the alternative conception of difference-making. (shrink)
Hierarchical Bayesian models provide an account of Bayesian inference in a hierarchically structured hypothesis space. Scientific theories are plausibly regarded as organized into hierarchies in many cases, with higher levels sometimes called ‘paradigms’ and lower levels encoding more specific or concrete hypotheses. Therefore, HBMs provide a useful model for scientific theory change, showing how higher-level theory change may be driven by the impact of evidence on lower levels. HBMs capture features described in the Kuhnian tradition, particularly the idea that higher-level (...) theories guide learning at lower levels. In addition, they help resolve certain issues for Bayesians, such as scientific preference for simplicity and the problem of new theories. (shrink)
Evolutionary theory is a paradigmatic example of a well-supported scientific theory. In this chapter we consider a number of objections to evolutionary theory, and show how responding to these objections reveals aspects of the way in which scientific theories are supported by evidence. Teaching these objections can therefore serve two pedagogical aims: students can learn the right way to respond to some popular arguments against evolutionary theory, and they can learn some basic features of the structure of scientific theories and (...) evidence. (shrink)
I present a problem for theories of explanation, concerning explanations involving disjunctive properties. The problem is particular acute for the explanatory non-fundamentalist, according to whom non-fundamental scientific explanations are sometimes superior to fundamental physical explanations. I criticise solutions to the problem due to Woodward, Strevens and Sober, and Lewis, and then defend a solution inspired by an account of non-fundamental laws recently defended by Callender and Cohen.
The concept of causation plays a central role in many philosophical theories, and yet no account of causation has gained widespread acceptance among those who have investigated its foundations. Theories based on laws, counterfactuals, physical processes, and probabilistic dependence and independence relations (the list is by no means exhaustive) have all received detailed treatment in recent years—and, while no account has been entirely successful, it is generally agreed that the concept has been greatly clariﬁed by the attempts. In this magniﬁcent (...) book, Woodward aims to give a uniﬁed account of causation and causal explanation in terms of the notion of a manipulation (or intervention, terms which can be read interchangeably). Not only does he produce in my view the most illuminating and comprehensive account of causation on oﬀer, his theory also opens a great many avenues for future work in the area, and has ramiﬁcations for many other areas of philosophy. Making Things Happen ought to be of interest not only to philosophers of causation and philosophers of science, but to any philosopher whose concerns involve assumptions about the nature of causation, laws, or explanation. (shrink)
Is the common cause principle merely one of a set of useful heuristics for discovering causal relations, or is it rather a piece of heavy duty metaphysics, capable of grounding the direction of causation itself? Since the principle was introduced in Reichenbach’s groundbreaking work The Direction of Time (1956), there have been a series of attempts to pursue the latter program—to take the probabilistic relationships constitutive of the principle of the common cause and use them to ground the direction of (...) causation. These attempts have not all explicitly appealed to the principle as originally formulated; it has also appeared in the guise of independence conditions, counterfactual overdetermination, and, in the causal modelling literature, as the causal markov condition. In this paper, I identify a set of difficulties for grounding the asymmetry of causation on the principle and its descendents. The first difficulty, concerning what I call the vertical placement of causation, consists of a tension between considerations that drive towards the macroscopic scale, and considerations that drive towards the microscopic scale—the worry is that these considerations cannot both be comfortably accommodated. The second difficulty consists of a novel potential counterexample to the principle based on the familiar Einstein Podolsky Rosen (EPR) correlations in quantum mechanics. (shrink)
A collection of newly commissioned papers on themes from David Albert's Time and Chance (HUP, 2000), with replies by Albert. Introduction [Barry Loewer, Brad Weslake, and Eric Winsberg] I. Overview of Time and Chance 1. The Mentaculus: A Probability Map of the Universe [Barry Loewer] II. Philosophical Foundations 2. The Metaphysical Foundations of Statistical Mechanics: On the Status of PROB and PH [Eric Winsberg] 3. The Logic of the Past Hypothesis [David Wallace] 4. In What Sense Is the Early Universe (...) Fine-Tuned? [Sean M. Carroll] 5. The Meta-Reversibility Objection [Christopher J. G. Meacham] 6. Typicality versus Humean Probabilities as the Foundation of Statistical Mechanics [Dustin Lazarovici] 7. The Past Hypothesis and the Nature of Physical Laws [Eddy Keming Chen] 8. On the Albertian Demon [Tim Maudlin] III. Underwriting the Asymmetries of Knowledge and Intervention 9. Reading the Past in the Present [Nick Huggett] 10. Causes, Randomness, and the Past Hypothesis [Mathias Frisch] 11. Time, Flies, and Why We Can’t Control the Past [Alison Fernandes] 12. The Concept of Intervention in Time and Chance [Sidney Felder] Conclusion [David Albert]. (shrink)
_Current Controversies in Philosophy of Science_ asks twelve philosophers to debate six questions that are driving contemporary work in this area of philosophy. But each question also leads readers back to more general issues and shows how these general issues play out in contemporary debates. The result is a book that’s perfect for the advanced student, building up her knowledge of the foundations of the field while also engaging with its cutting-edge questions. Preliminary descriptions of each chapter, annotated bibliographies for (...) each controversy, study questions, and a supplemental guide to further controversies in philosophy of science help provide clearer and richer snapshots of active controversies for all readers. (shrink)
ttempts to characterise time seem to throw up paradox at every turn. Some of the most famous of the paradoxes are also the oldest—those due to Aristotle (384–322 BC) and Zeno (b. c. 488 BC), as described in Aristotle’s Physics. For example, Zeno argued that in order to traverse any distance, one must always first traverse half that distance; but since this half is itself a distance to be traversed, one must in turn first traverse half of the half, and (...) so on ad infinitum. Since it is impossible to traverse an infinite number of distances in a finite time, all motion must be impossible—indeed, incoherent. A similar argument can be used to show that a line cannot be composed of a set of points, a problem which was only satisfactorily resolved with the development of the modern mathematics of infinity. A central question for the philosophy of time, then, becomes whether (and how) the mathematics of infinity applies to time. (shrink)
In recent philosophy of mind, epiphenomenalism—that strain of dualism according to which the mind is caused by the body but does not cause the body in turn—has undergone something of a renaissance. Contemporary epiphenomenalists bear only partial resemblance to their more extravagantly metaphysical ancestors, however. Traditional epiphenomenalists thought that (at least) two sorts of mental properties were epiphenomenal—intentional properties such as the meaning or representational content of the propositional attitudes (beliefs, desires and so on); and conscious properties such as awareness (...) and the qualitative nature of experience. Contemporary epiphenomenalists, on the other hand, are largely sanguine about the prospects for intentionality to be brought within the purview of a physicalist worldview; what forces their dualism is one particular feature of consciousness—what irks them are qualia, the.. (shrink)
hen Democritus (460–370 BC) said that he would rather discover one true cause than gain the kingdom of Persia, he signalled both the difficulty and the value of gaining causal knowledge. It is arguably the acquisition of causal knowledge that is the primary goal of scientific enquiry; and within philosophy, causation has played a central role in recent theories of reference, perception, decision making, knowledge, intentional and other mental states, and the role of theoretical terms in scientific theories. Indeed, Samuel (...) Alexander (1859–1938) suggested that causation was of the essence of existence itself with his dictum that to be real is to have causal powers. Moreover, assumptions about the nature of causation structure a great deal of discussion elsewhere in philosophy. For example, debates over free will often take as their starting point the question of how we can be free if our intentions to act are themselves part of the causal order. Again, debates in the metaphysics of mind often revolve around the claim that since every physical event has a physical cause, the mind must itself be in some sense physical in order to be the causal source of our actions qua physical events. (shrink)