There is a systematic and suggestive analogy between grounding and causation. In my view, this analogy is no coincidence. Grounding and causation are alike because grounding is a type of causation: metaphysical causation. In this paper I defend the identification of grounding with metaphysical causation, drawing on the causation literature to explore systematic connections between grounding and metaphysical dependence counterfactuals, and I outline a non-reductive counterfactual theory of grounding along interventionist lines.
Causation is at once familiar and mysterious. Neither common sense nor extensive philosophical debate has led us to anything like agreement on the correct analysis of the concept of causation, or an account of the metaphysical nature of the causal relation. Causation: A User's Guide cuts a clear path through this confusing but vital landscape. L. A. Paul and Ned Hall guide the reader through the most important philosophical treatments of causation, negotiating the terrain by taking a set of examples (...) as landmarks. They clarify the central themes of the debate about causation, and cover questions about causation involving omissions or absences, preemption and other species of redundant causation, and the possibility that causation is not transitive. Along the way, Paul and Hall examine several contemporary proposals for analyzing the nature of causation and assess their merits and overall methodological cogency.The book is designed to be of value both to trained specialists and those coming to the problem of causation for the first time. It provides the reader with a broad and sophisticated view of the metaphysics of the causal relation. (shrink)
Causation: A Realist Approach Traditional empiricist accounts of causation and laws of nature have been reductionist in the sense of entailing that given a complete specification of the non-causal properties of and relations among particulars, it is therefore logically determined both what laws there are and what events are causally related. It is argued here, however, that reductionist accounts of causation and of laws of nature are exposed to decisive objections, and thus that the time has come for empiricists to (...) break with that tradition. -/- The basic goal of this book, therefore, is to set out and defend realistic accounts of those concepts. In the case of causal relations, for example, Tooley maintains that causation is basically a matter of theoretical relations between states of affairs that underlie and explain relative frequencies. He also argues that such an approach avoids the objections that tell against reductionist accounts and that it does so without making causal relations epistemologically inaccessible. (shrink)
The problem of downward causation is that an intuitive response to an intuitive picture leads to counterintuitive results. Suppose a mental event, m1, causes another mental event, m2. Unless the mental and the physical are completely independent, there will be a physical event in your brain or your body or the physical world as a whole that underlies this event. The mental event occurs at least partly in virtue of the physical event’s occurring. And the same goes for m2  (...) and p2. Let’s not worry about what exactly “underlying” or “in virtue of” means here. Here’s the picture. m1 -----> m2 | | p1 -----> p2 The horizontal arrows represent causation, and the vertical lines represent underlying, whatever that may be. There’s some reason to think that the only way m1 can bring about m2 is by bringing about p2. You can’t convince someone of something through mental telepathy. You need to interact with the physical world, perhaps by saying something and so making some noise, or by pointing and getting them to turn their head and see. What goes for the case of two people goes for the case of one person as well. Superstition aside, there is no purely mental energy that floats free of the merely physical workings of the brain. If m1 brings about m2 by bringing about p2, then m1 brings about p2. This is downward causation. But wait. Doesn’t p1 bring about p2? Isn’t that what the bottom arrow represents? Maybe m1 and p1 work together to bring about p2. There are little holes in the physical causal structure that need to be filled by mental events. You don’t need a sweeping metaphysical thesis about the causal closure of the physical to find this implausible. Maybe p2 is overdetermined. (shrink)
Recent work in psychology and experimental philosophy has shown that judgments of actual causation are often influenced by consideration of defaults, typicality, and normality. A number of philosophers and computer scientists have also suggested that an appeal to such factors can help deal with problems facing existing accounts of actual causation. This article develops a flexible formal framework for incorporating defaults, typicality, and normality into an account of actual causation. The resulting account takes actual causation to be both graded and (...) comparative. We then show how our account would handle a number of standard cases. 1 Introduction2 Causal Models3 The HP Definition of Actual Causation4 The Problem of Isomorphism5 Defaults, Typicality, and Normality6 Extended Causal Models7 Examples7.1 Omissions7.2 Knobe effects7.3 Causes versus background conditions7.4 Bogus prevention7.5 Causal chains7.6 Legal doctrines of intervening causes7.7 Pre-emption and short circuits8 Conclusion. (shrink)
The concept of causation is fundamental to ascribing moral and legal responsibility for events. Yet the precise relationship between causation and responsibility remains unclear. This book clarifies that relationship through an analysis of the best accounts of causation in metaphysics, and a critique of the confusion in legal doctrine.
Introduction -- Rational explanation of belief -- Rational explanation of action -- (Non-human) animals and their reasons -- Rational explanation and rational causation -- Events and states -- Physicalism.
Which country, politician, or policy is more of a cause of the Covid-19 pandemic death toll? Which of the two factories causally contributed more to the pollution of the nearby river? A wide-ranging portion of our everyday thought and talk, and attitudes rely on a graded notion of causation. However, it is sometimes highlighted that on most contemporary accounts, causation is on-off. Some philosophers further question the legitimacy of talk of degrees of causation and suggest that we avoid it. Some (...) hold that the notion of degrees of causation is an illusion. In this paper, I’ll argue that causation does come in degrees. (shrink)
The book deals with the notion of Downward Causation from a wide array of perspectives, including physics, biology, psychology, social science, communication studies, text theory, and philosophy. The book includes proponents as well as opponents discussing the validity of the notion.
Causation is one of philosophy's most venerable and thoroughly-analyzed concepts. However, the study of how ordinary people make causal judgments is a much more recent addition to the philosophical arsenal. One of the most prominent views of causal explanation, especially in the realm of harmful or potentially harmful behavior, is that unusual or counternormative events are accorded privileged status in ordinary causal explanations. This is a fundamental assumption in psychological theories of counterfactual reasoning, and has been transported to philosophy by (...) Hitchcock and Knobe (2009). A different view--the basis of the culpable control model of blame (CCM)--is that primary causal status is accorded to behaviors that arouse negative evaluative reactions, including behaviors that stem from nefarious motives, negligence or recklessness, a faulty character, or behaviors that lead to harmful or potentially harmful consequences. This paper describes four empirical studies that show consistent support for the CCM. (shrink)
This work is a systematic investigation of a range of solutions offered today for the philosophical problem of mental causation. The premises constituting the problem are analyzed before a survey is developed of the most popular theories on mental causation. It is demonstrated in detail why most of these canonical solutions must be considered deficient. In a third part, the 'new compatibilist's' approach to mental causation is explored, which is characterized by assertion of a non-identity-but-non-distinctness principle. The last part aims (...) to offer an alternative solution to the problem. On the basis of a certain set of counterfactual conditionals, which are jointly taken to provide a definition of 'causal proportionality' that improves the existing definitions, it is shown that a specific, and hitherto widely neglected, version of causal overdeterminationism must be considered the most successful solution to the problem of mental causation. (shrink)
Causation has traditionally been analyzed either as a relation of nomic dependence or as a relation of counterfactual dependence. I argue for a third program, a physicalistic reduction of the causal relation to one of energy-momentum transference in the technical sense of physics. This physicalistic analysis is argued to have the virtues of easily handling the standard counterexamples to the nomic and counterfactual analyses, offering a plausible epistemology for our knowledge of causes, and elucidating the nature of the relation between (...) causation and physical science. (shrink)
The world contains objective causal relations and universals, both of which are intimately connected. If these claims are true, they must have far-reaching consequences, breathing new life into the theory of empirical knowledge and reinforcing epistemological realism. Without causes and universals, Professor Fales argues, realism is defeated, and idealism or scepticism wins. Fales begins with a detailed analysis of David Hume's argument that we have no direct experience of necessary connections between events, concluding that Hume was mistaken on this fundamental (...) point. Then, adopting the view of Armstrong and others that causation is grounded in a second-order relation between universals, he explores a range of topics for which the resulting analysis of causation has systematic implications. In particular, causal identity conditions for physical universals are proposed, which generate a new argument for Platonism. The nature of space and time is discussed, with arguments against backward causation and for the view that space and time can exist independently of matter or causal process. Many of Professor Fales's conclusions seem to run counter to received opinion among contemporary empiricists. Yet his method is classically empiricist in spirit, and a chief motive for these metaphysical explorations is epistemological. The final chapters investigate the perennial question of whether an empiricist, internalist and foundational epistemology can support scientific realism. (shrink)
Carolina Sartorio argues that only the actual causes of our behaviour matter to our freedom. The key, she claims, lies in a correct understanding of the role played by causation in a view of that kind. Causation has some important features that make it a responsibility-grounding relation, and this contributes to the success of the view. Also, when agents act freely, the actual causes are richer than they appear to be at first sight; in particular, they reflect the agents' sensitivity (...) to reasons, where this includes both the existence of actual reasons and the absence of other reasons. So acting freely requires more causes and quite complex causes, as opposed to fewer causes and simpler causes, and is compatible with those causes being deterministic. The book connects two different debates, the one on causation and the one on the problem of free will, in new and illuminating ways. (shrink)
In many spheres, the law takes the legal concept of causation to correspond to the folk concept (the correspondence assumption). Courts, including the US Supreme Court, tend to insist on the "common understanding" and that which is "natural to say" (Burrage v. United States) when it comes to expressions relating to causation, and frequently refuse to clarify the expression to juries. As recent work in psychology and experimental philosophy has uncovered, lay attributions of causation are susceptible to a great number (...) of unexpected factors, some of which seem rather peripheral to causation. One of those is the norm effect (Knobe & Fraser, 2008): Agents who, in acting as they do, break a salient norm, are more likely to be considered as having caused a certain consequence than when they do not violate a norm. According to some (e.g., Alicke, 1992) this constitutes a bias. According to others (e.g., Sytsma, 2020), the folk concept of causation is sensitive to normative factors, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In this paper, we explore the question whether the norm effect should be considered a bias from the legal perspective on the one hand, and from the psychological perspective on the other. To do this, we test whether norms which are nonpertinent to the consequences or outright silly also impact causation judgements. The data from two preregistered experiments (total N=593) clearly show they do. This, we argue, makes the bias interpretation plausible from the psychological perspective, and both plausible and problematic from the legal perspective. It also shows that the law should abstain from unreflectively assuming conceptual correspondence between legal and ordinary language concepts. (shrink)
Causation is the main foundation upon which the possibility of science rests. Without causation, there would be no scientific understanding, explanation, prediction, nor application in new technologies. How we discover causal connections is no easy matter, however. Causation often lies hiddenfrom view and it is vital that we adopt the right methods for uncovering it. The choice of methods will inevitably reflect what one takes causation to be, making an accurate account of causation an even more pressing matter. This enquiry (...) informs the correct norms for an empirical study of the world. In Causation in Science and the Methods of Scientific Discovery, Rani Lill Anjum and Stephen Mumford propose nine new norms of scientific discovery. A number of existing methodological and philosophical orthodoxies are challenged as they argue that progress in science is being held back by an overlysimplistic philosophy of causation. (shrink)
We currently have on offer a variety of different theories of causation. Many are strikingly good, providing detailed and plausible treatments of exemplary cases; and all suffer from clear counterexamples. I argue that, contra Hume and Kant, this is because causation is not a single, monolithic concept. There are different kinds of causal relations imbedded in different kinds of systems, readily described using thick causal concepts. Our causal theories pick out important and useful structures that fit some familiar cases—cases we (...) discover and ones we devise to fit. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that causation is an essentially macroscopic phenomenon, and that mental causes are therefore capable of outcompeting their more specific physical realizers as causes of physical effects. But I also argue that any causes must be type-identical with physical properties, on pain of positing inexplicable physical conspiracies. I therefore allow macroscopic mental causation, but only when it is physically reducible.
I argue that causation is a contrastive relation: c-rather-than-C* causes e-rather-than-E*, where C* and E* are contrast classes associated respectively with actual events c and e. I explain why this is an improvement on the traditional binary view, and develop a detailed definition. It turns out that causation is only well defined in ‘uniform’ cases, where either all or none of the members of C* are related appropriately to members of E*.
Our minds have physical effects. This happens, for instance, when we move our bodies when we act. How is this possible? Thomas Kroedel defends an account of mental causation in terms of difference-making: if our minds had been different, the physical world would have been different; therefore, the mind causes events in the physical world. His account not only explains how the mind has physical effects at all, but solves the exclusion problem - the problem of how those effects can (...) have both mental and physical causes. It is also unprecedented in scope, because it is available to dualists about the mind as well as physicalists, drawing on traditional views of causation as well as on the latest developments in the field of causal modelling. It will be of interest to a range of readers in philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. This book is also available as Open Access. (shrink)
The Problems of Mental Causation. Functionalism in the philosophy of mind identifies mental states with their dispositional connections with other mental states, perceptions and actions. Many theories of the mind have sailed under the Functionalist flag. But what I take to be essential to Functionalism is that mental states are individuated causally: the reality of mental states depends essentially on their causal efficacy.
There have recently been a number of strong claims that normative considerations, broadly construed, influence many philosophically important folk concepts and perhaps are even a constitutive component of various cognitive processes. Many such claims have been made about the influence of such factors on our folk notion of causation. In this paper, we argue that the strong claims found in the recent literature on causal cognition are overstated, as they are based on one narrow type of data about a particular (...) type of causal cognition; the extant data do not warrant any wide-ranging conclusions about the pervasiveness of normative considerations in causal cognition. Of course, almost all empirical investigations involve some manner of ampliative inference, and so we provide novel empirical results demonstrating that there are types of causal cognition that do not seem to be influenced by moral considerations. (shrink)
This paper explores the prospects of employing a functional approach in order to improve our concept of actual causation. Claims of actual causation play an important role for a variety of purposes. In particular, they are relevant for identifying suitable targets for intervention, and they are relevant for our practices of ascribing responsibility. I argue that this gives rise to the challenge of purpose. The challenge of purpose arises when different goals demand adjustments of the concept that pull in opposing (...) directions. More specifically, I argue that a common distinction between certain kinds of preempted and preempting factors is difficult to motivate from an interventionist viewpoint. This indicates that an appropriately revised concept of actual causation would not distinguish between these two kinds of factors. From the viewpoint of retributivist responsibility, however, the distinction between preempted and preempting factors sometimes is important, which indicates that the distinction should be retained. (shrink)
Worries about mental causation are prominent in contemporary discussions of the mind and human agency. Originally, the problem of mental causation was that of understanding how a mental substance (thought to be immaterial) could interact with a material substance, a body. Most philosophers nowadays repudiate immaterial minds, but the problem of mental causation has not gone away. Instead, focus has shifted to mental properties. How could mental properties be causally relevant to bodily behavior? How could something mental qua mental cause (...) what it does? After looking at the traditional Problem of Interaction, we survey various versions of the property-based problem and look at proposed solutions to them. (shrink)
What would it be for a process to happen backwards in time? Would such a process involve different causal relations? It is common to understand the time-reversal invariance of a physical theory in causal terms, such that whatever can happen forwards in time can also happen backwards in time. This has led many to hold that time-reversal symmetry is incompatible with the asymmetry of cause and effect. This article critiques the causal reading of time reversal. First, I argue that the (...) causal reading requires time-reversal-related models to be understood as representing distinct possible worlds and, on such a reading, causal relations are compatible with time-reversal symmetry. Second, I argue that the former approach does, however, raise serious sceptical problems regarding the causal relations of paradigm causal processes and as a consequence there are overwhelming reasons to prefer a non-causal reading of time reversal, whereby time reversal leaves causal relations invariant. On the non-causal reading, time-reversal symmetry poses no significant conceptual nor epistemological problems for causation. _1_ Introduction _1.1_ The directionality argument _1.2_ Time reversal _2_ What Does Time Reversal Reverse? _2.1_ The B- and C-theory of time _2.2_ Time reversal on the C-theory _2.3_ Answers _3_ Does Time Reversal Reverse Causal Relations? _3.1_ Causation, billiards, and snooker _3.2_ The epistemology of causal direction _3.3_ Answers _4_ Is Time-Reversal Symmetry Compatible with Causation? _4.1_ Incompatibilism _4.2_ Compatibilism _4.3_ Answers _5_ Outlook. (shrink)
Ehring shows the inadequacy of received theories of causation, and, introducing conceptual devices of his own, provides a wholly new account of causation as the persistence over time of individual properties, or "tropes.".
Fundamental Causation addresses issues in the metaphysics of deterministic singular causation, the metaphysics of events, property instances, facts, preventions, and omissions, as well as the debate between causal reductionists and causal anti-reductionists. The book also pays special attention to causation and causal structure in physics. Weaver argues that causation is a multigrade obtaining relation that is transitive, irreflexive, and asymmetric. When causation is singular, deterministic and such that it relates purely contingent events, the relation is also universal, intrinsic, and well-founded. (...) He shows that proper causal relata are events understood as states of substances at ontological indices. He then proves that causation cannot be reduced to some non-causal base, and that the best account of that relation should be unashamedly primitivist about the dependence relation that underwrites its very nature. The book demonstrates a distinctive realist and anti-reductionist account of causation by detailing precisely how the account outperforms reductionist and competing anti-reductionist accounts in that it handles all of the difficult cases while overcoming all of the general objections to anti-reductionism upon which other anti-reductionist accounts falter. This book offers an original and interesting view of causation and will appeal to scholars and advanced students in the areas of metaphysics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of physics. (shrink)
I provide a comprehensive metaphysics of causation based on the idea that fundamentally things are governed by the laws of physics, and that derivatively difference-making can be assessed in terms of what fundamental laws of physics imply for hypothesized events. Highlights include a general philosophical methodology, the fundamental/derivative distinction, and my mature account of causal asymmetry.
Setting off from a familiar distinction in the philosophy of properties, this paper introduces a tripartite distinction between sparse causation, abundant causation and mere abundant causation. It is argued that the contrast between sparse and mere abundant causation allows us to resolve notorious philosophical issues having to do with negative causation, causation involving institutional properties and physical macro-causation in a way that is unified, intuitive and in line with scientific doctrines and practices.
Many philosophical theories of causation are egalitarian, rejecting a distinction between causes and mere causal conditions. We sought to determine the extent to which people's causal judgments discriminate, selecting as causes counternormal events—those that violate norms of some kind—while rejecting non-violators. We found significant selectivity of this sort. Moreover, priming that encouraged more egalitarian judgments had little effect on subjects. We also found that omissions are as likely as actions to be judged as causes, and that counternormative selectivity appears to (...) apply equally to actions and omissions. (shrink)
All univocal analyses of causation face counterexamples. An attractive response to this situation is to become a pluralist about causal relationships. "Causal pluralism" is itself, however, a pluralistic notion. In this article, I argue in favor of pluralism about concepts of cause in the social sciences. The article will show that evidence for, inference from, and the purpose of causal claims are very closely linked. Key Words: causation • pluralism • evidence • methodology.
In a recent paper I argued that agent causation theorists should be compatibilists. In this paper, I argue that compatibilists should be agent causation theorists. I consider six of the main problems facing compatibilism: (i) the powerful intuition that one can't be responsible for actions that were somehow determined before one was born; (ii) Peter van Inwagen's modal argument, involving the inference rule (β); (iii) the objection to compatibilism that is based on claiming that the ability to do otherwise is (...) a necessary condition for freedom; (iv) "manipulation arguments," involving cases in which an agent is manipulated by some powerful being into doing something that he or she would not normally do, but in such a way that the compatibilist's favorite conditions for a free action are satisfied; (v) the problem of constitutive luck; and (vi) the claim that it is not fair to blame someone for an action if that person was determined by forces outside of his or her control to perform that action. And in the case of each of these problems, I argue that the compatibilist has a much more plausible response to that problem if she endorses the theory of agent causation than she does otherwise. (shrink)
The reduction of grounding to causation, or each to a more general relation of which they are species, has sometimes been justified by the impressive inferential capacity of structural equation modelling, causal Bayes nets, and interventionist causal modelling. Many criticisms of this assimilation focus on how causation is inadequate for grounding. Here, I examine the other direction: how treating grounding in the image of causation makes the resulting view worse for causation. The distinctive features of causal modelling that make this (...) connection appealing are distorted beyond use by forcing them to fit onto grounding. The very inferential strength that makes causation attractive is only possible because of a narrow construal of what counts as a causal relation; as soon as that broadens, the inferential capacity markedly diminishes. Making causation suitable for application to grounding spoils what was appealing about causation for this task in the first place. However, grounding need not appeal to causation: causal modelling does not have exclusive claim to structural equation modeling or other formal techniques of modelling structure. I offer a case in favour of a different kind of metaphysical frugality, which tend towards narrow, more restrictive construals of relations like causation or grounding, because then each relation behaves more homogenously. This more homogenous behavior delivers stronger inferential power per relation even though there may be more relations to which one is committed. (shrink)
The standard objection to dualist theories of mind is that they seemingly cannot account for the obvious fact that mental phenomena cause our behaviour. On the plausible assumption that all our behaviour is physically necessitated by entirely physical phenomena, there appears to be no room for dualist mental causation. Some argue that dualists can address this problem by making minimal adjustments in their ontology. I argue that no such adjustments are required. Given recent developments in philosophy of causation, it is (...) plausible that mental phenomena cause behaviour in standard dualist ontologies. (shrink)
In “A Subjectivist’s Guide to Objective Chance,” David Lewis says that he is “led to wonder whether anyone but a subjectivist is in a position to understand objective chance.” The present essay aims to motivate this same Lewisean attitude, and a similar degree of modest subjectivism, with respect to objective causation. The essay begins with Newcomb problems, which turn on an apparent tension between two principles of choice: roughly, a principle sensitive to the causal features of the relevant situation, and (...) a principle sensitive only to evidential factors. Two-boxers give priority to causal beliefs, and one-boxers to evidential beliefs. The essay notes that a similar issue can arise when the modality in question is chance, rather than causation. In this case, the conflict is between decision rules based on credences guided solely by chances, and rules based on credences guided by other sorts of probabilistic evidence. Far from excluding cases of the latter kind, Lewis’s Principal Principle explicitly allows for them, in the form of the caveat that credences should follow beliefs about chances only in the absence of “inadmissible evidence.” The essay then exhibits a tension in Lewis’s views on these two matters, by presenting a class of decision problems—some of them themselves Newcomb problems—in which Lewis’s view of the relevance of inadmissible evidence seems in tension with his causal decision theory. It offers a diagnosis for this dilemma and proposes a remedy, based on an extension of a proposal due to Ned Hall and others from the case of chance to that of causation. The remedy suggests a new view of the relation between causal decision theory and evidential decision theory, namely, that they stand to each other much as chance stands to credence, being objective and subjective faces of the same practical coin. This has much the same metaphysical benefits as Lewis’s own view of chance and also throws interesting new light on Newcomb problems, providing an irenic resolution of the apparent disagreement between causal and evidential decision rules. (shrink)
Nonreductive physicalism states that actions have sufficient physical causes and distinct mental causes. Nonreductive physicalism has recently faced the exclusion problem, according to which the single sufficient physical cause excludes the mental causes from causal efficacy. Autonomists respond by stating that while mental-to-physical causation fails, mental-to-mental causation persists. Several recent philosophers establish this autonomy result via similar models of causation :1031–1049, 2016; Zhong, J Philos 111:341–360, 2014). In this paper I argue that both of these autonomist models fail on account (...) of the problem of Edwards’s Dictum. However, I appeal to foundational principles of action theory to resuscitate mental-to-mental causation in a manner that is consistent with the models of causation endorsed by these autonomists. (shrink)
The physical and/or intrinsic connection approach to causation has become prominent in the recent literature, with Salmon, Dowe, Menzies, and Armstrong among its leading proponents. I show that there is a type of causation, causation by disconnection, with no physical or intrinsic connection between cause and effect. Only Hume-style conditions approaches and hybrid conditions-connections approaches appear to be able to handle causation by disconnection. Some Hume-style, extrinsic, absence-relating, necessary and/or sufficient condition component of the causal relation proves to be needed.
This book, published in 2000, is a clear account of causation based firmly in contemporary science. Dowe discusses in a systematic way, a positive account of causation: the conserved quantities account of causal processes which he has been developing over the last ten years. The book describes causal processes and interactions in terms of conserved quantities: a causal process is the worldline of an object which possesses a conserved quantity, and a causal interaction involves the exchange of conserved quantities. Further, (...) things that are properly called cause and effect are appropriately connected by a set of causal processes and interactions. The distinction between cause and effect is explained in terms of a version of the fork theory: the direction of a certain kind of ordered pattern of events in the world. This particular version has the virtue that it allows for the possibility of backwards causation, and therefore time travel. (shrink)
We propose that all actual causes are simultaneous with their direct effects, as illustrated by both everyday examples and the laws of physics. We contrast this view with the sequential conception of causation, according to which causes must occur prior to their effects. The key difference between the two views of causation lies in differing assumptions about the mathematical structure of time.
We argue that current discussions of criteria for actual causation are ill-posed in several respects. (1) The methodology of current discussions is by induction from intuitions about an infinitesimal fraction of the possible examples and counterexamples; (2) cases with larger numbers of causes generate novel puzzles; (3) "neuron" and causal Bayes net diagrams are, as deployed in discussions of actual causation, almost always ambiguous; (4) actual causation is (intuitively) relative to an initial system state since state changes are relevant, but (...) most current accounts ignore state changes through time; (5) more generally, there is no reason to think that philosophical judgements about these sorts of cases are normative; but (6) there is a dearth of relevant psychological research that bears on whether various philosophical accounts are descriptive. Our skepticism is not directed towards the possibility of a correct account of actual causation; rather, we argue that standard methods will not lead to such an account. A different approach is required. (shrink)
Causation is important. It is, as Hume said, the cement of the universe, and lies at the heart of our conceptual structure. Causation is one of the most fundamental tools we have for organizing our apprehension of the external world and ourselves. But philosophers' disagreement about the correct interpretation of causation is as limitless as their agreement about its importance. The history of attempts to elucidate the nature of this concept and to situate it with respect to other fundamental concepts (...) is almost as long as the history of philosophy itself. In this first English translation of Causalite; et lois de la nature Max Kistler seeks to reconstruct a unified concept of causation that is general enough to adequately deal with both elementary physical processes and the macroscopic level of phenomena we encounter in everyday life. It will be of great interest to philosophers of science and metaphysics; and also to students and scholars of philosophy of mind where concepts of causation and law play a prominent role. (shrink)
The standard paradigm for mental causation is a person’s acting for a reason. Something happens - she intentionally φ’s - the occurrence of which we explain by citing a relevant belief or desire. In the present context, I simply take for granted the following two conditions on the appropriateness of this explanation. First, the agent φ’s _because_ she believes/desires what we say she does, where this is expressive of a _causal_ dependence.1 Second, her believing/desiring this gives her a _reason_ for (...) φ-ing: recognizing that she has this belief/desire makes her φ-ing intelligible as rational in the light of her other attitudes and circumstances. A further condition must be met, though, if this is to be a genuine psychological explanation, a case of her acting _for_ the reason in question. Consider the following example of Davidson’s (1973, p. 79). An exhausted climber is desperate to rid herself of the weight and danger of holding her partner on a rope; and her sudden realization that simply letting go would achieve this so unnerves her that her grip loosens slightly and he falls. Her releasing him causally depends upon her having this belief and desire, which provide _a_ reason for doing what she does. But this is not _why_ she does it: it would be at best misleading to say that she dropped him, intentionally, because she was fed up with holding his weight, or because she thought that she might otherwise fall. Her letting go does not depend upon her having these reasons in the right way. The reason-giving relation is causally irrelevant. If we are to explain a person’s acting _for_ a reason, then her doing. (shrink)
In the section on laws of nature, Psillos considers both the regularity view of laws and laws as relations among universals as well as alternative approaches to laws. In the final section on explanation he examines in detail the issues arising from deductive-nomological explanation and statistical explanation before considering the explanation of laws and the metaphysics of explanation. Accessible to students of all levels the author provides an excellent introduction to one of the most enduring problems of philosophy.