Hunting Causes and Using Them argues that causation is not one thing, as commonly assumed, but many. There is a huge variety of causal relations, each with different characterizing features, different methods for discovery and different uses to which it can be put. In this collection of new and previously published essays, Nancy Cartwright provides a critical survey of philosophical and economic literature on causality, with a special focus on the currently fashionable Bayes-nets and invariance methods - and it exposes (...) a huge gap in that literature. Almost every account treats either exclusively how to hunt causes or how to use them. But where is the bridge between? It's no good knowing how to warrant a causal claim if we don't know what we can do with that claim once we have it. This book will interest philosophers, economists and social scientists. (shrink)
People generally accept that there is causation by omission—that the omission of some events cause some related events. But this acceptance elicits the selection problem, or the difficulty of explaining the selection of a particular omissive cause or class of causes from the causal conditions. Some theorists contend that dependence theories of causation cannot resolve this problem. In this paper, we argue that the appeal to norms adequately resolves the selection problem for dependence theories, and we provide novel (...) experimental evidence for it. (shrink)
In Causes, Laws, and Free Will, Kadri Vihvelin argues that we can have free will even if everything we do is predictable given the laws of nature and the past. The belief that determinism robs us of free will springs from mistaken beliefs about the metaphysics of causation, the nature of laws, and the logic of counterfactuals.
Many philosophers maintain that causation is to be explicated in terms of a kind of dependence between cause and effect. These “dependence” theories are opposed by “production” accounts which hold that there is some more fundamental causal “oomph”. A wide range of experimental research on everyday causal judgments seems to indicate that ordinary people operate primarily with a dependence-based notion of causation. For example, people tend to say that absences and double preventers are causes. We argue that the impression (...) that commonsense causal discourse is largely dependence-based is the result of focusing on a very narrow class of causal verbs. Almost all of the vignette-based experimental work on causal judgment has been prosecuted using the word “cause”. But much ordinary causal discourse involves special causal verbs, such as “burn” and “crack”. We find that these verbs display a quite different pattern from the verb “cause”. For instance, for absences and double preventers (Studies 1-3), we find that while people are inclined to say that X caused Y to burn, turn, crack or start, they are less inclined to think that X burned, turned, cracked or started Y. In Study 4, we find that for chains involving a distal and proximal event, people are inclined to say that the distal event is not a special cause of the outcome, though it is a “cause” of the outcome. Together, we find a surprising double dissociation between “cause” and a stock of special causal verbs. We conclude by suggesting that much commonsense causal judgment, which heavily trades in special causal verbs, might be better captured by production-based accounts of causation. (shrink)
Causal pluralists hold that that there is not just one determinate kind of causation. Some causal pluralists hold that ‘cause’ is ambiguous among these different kinds. For example, Hall (2004) argues that ‘cause’ is ambiguous between two causal relations, which he labels dependence and production. The view that ‘cause’ is ambiguous, however, wrongly predicts zeugmatic conjunction reduction, and wrongly predicts the behaviour of ellipsis in causal discourse. So ‘cause’ is not ambiguous. If we are to disentangle (...) causal pluralism from the ambiguity claim, we need to consider what other linguistic approaches are available to the causal pluralist. I consider and reject proposals that ‘cause’ is a general term, that the term is an indexical, and that the term conveys different kinds of causation through implicature or presupposition. Finally, I argue that causal pluralism is better handled by treating ‘cause’ as a univocal term within a dynamic interpretation framework. (shrink)
I argue that psychologists interested in human causal judgment should understand and adopt a representation of causal mechanisms by directed graphs that encode conditional independence (screening off) relations. I illustrate the benefits of that representation, now widely used in computer science and increasingly in statistics, by (i) showing that a dispute in psychology between ‘mechanist’ and ‘associationist’ psychological theories of causation rests on a false and confused dichotomy; (ii) showing that a recent, much-cited experiment, purporting to show that human subjects, (...) incorrectly let large causes ‘overshadow’ small causes, misrepresents the most likely, and warranted, causal explanation available to the subjects, in the light of which their responses were normative; (iii) showing how a recent psychological theory (due to P. Cheng) of human judgment of causal power can be considerably generalized: and (iv) suggesting a range of possible experiments comparing human and computer abilities to extract causal information from associations. (shrink)
This book provides the first comprehensive account of Hume’s conception of objects in Book I of the Treatise. What, according to Hume, are objects? Ideas? Impressions? Mind-independent objects? All three? None of the above? Through a close textual analysis, I show that Hume thought that objects are imagined ideas. However, I argue that he struggled with two accounts of how and when we imagine such ideas. On the one hand, Hume believed that we always and universally imagine that objects are (...) the causes of our perceptions. On the other hand, he thought that we only imagine such causes when we reach a “philosophical” level of thought. This tension manifests itself in Hume’s account of personal identity; a tension that, I argue, Hume acknowledges in the Appendix to the Treatise. As a result of presenting a detailed account of Hume’s conception of objects, we are forced to accommodate new interpretations of, at least, Hume’s notions of belief, personal identity, justification and causality. (shrink)
Recent philosophical work on causation has focused on distinctions across types of causal relationships. This paper argues for another distinction that has yet to receive attention in this work. This distinction has to do with whether causal relationships have “material continuity,” which refers to the reliable movement of material from cause to effect. This paper provides an analysis of material continuity and argues that causal relationships with this feature are associated with a unique explanatory perspective, are studied with distinct (...) causal investigative methods, and provide different types of causal control over their effects. (shrink)
Biologists studying complex causal systems typically identify some factors as causes and treat other factors as background conditions. For example, when geneticists explain biological phenomena, they often foreground genes and relegate the cellular milieu to the background. But factors in the milieu are as causally necessary as genes for the production of phenotypic traits, even traits at the molecular level such as amino acid sequences. Gene-centered biology has been criticized on the grounds that because there is parity among causes, the (...) “privileging” of genes reflects a reductionist bias, not an ontological difference. The idea that there is an ontological parity among causes is related to a philosophical puzzle identified by John Stuart Mill: what, other than our interests or biases, could possibly justify identifying some causes as the actual or operative ones, and other causes as mere background? The aim of this paper is to solve this conceptual puzzle and to explain why there is not an ontological parity among genes and the other factors. It turns out that solving this puzzle helps answer a seemingly unrelated philosophical question: what kind of causal generality matters in biology? (shrink)
Paul Pietroski presents an original philosophical theory of actions and their mental causes. We often act for reasons: we deliberate and choose among options, based on our beliefs and desires. However, bodily motions always have biochemical causes, so it can seem that thinking and acting are biochemical processes. Pietroski argues that thoughts and deeds are in fact distinct from, though dependent on, underlying biochemical processes within persons.
Michael T. Ferejohn presents a new analysis of Aristotle's theory of explanation and scientific knowledge, in the context of its Socratic roots. Ferejohn shows how Aristotle resolves the tension between his commitment to the formal-case model of explanation and his recognition of the role of efficient causes in explaining natural phenomena.
Within evolutionary biology a distinction is frequently made between proximate and ultimate causes. One apparently plausible interpretation of this dichotomy is that proximate causes concern processes occurring during the life of an organism while ultimate causes refer to those processes (particularly natural selection) that shaped its genome. But ultimate causes are not sought through historical investigations of an organisms lineage. Rather, explanations referring to ultimate causes typically emerge from functional analyses. But these functional analyses do not identify causes of any (...) kind, much less ultimate ones. So-called ultimate explanations are not about causes in any sense resembling those of proximate explanations. The attitude, implicit in the term ultimate cause, that these functional analyses are somehow superordinate to those involving proximate causes is unfounded. Ultimate causes are neither ultimate nor causes. (shrink)
We propose a new definition of actual causes, using structural equations to model counterfactuals. We show that the definition yields a plausible and elegant account of causation that handles well examples which have caused problems for other definitions and resolves major difficulties in the traditional account.
Causation is everywhere in the world: it features in every science and technology. But how much do we understand it? Mumford and Anjum develop a new theory of causation based on an ontology of real powers or dispositions. They provide the first detailed outline of a thoroughly dispositional approach, and explore its surprising features.
I argue that the criterion of just cause is not independent of proportionality and other valid jus ad bellum criteria. One cannot know whether there is a just cause without knowing whether the other (valid) criteria (apart from ‘right intention’) are satisfied. The advantage of this account is that it is applicable to all wars, even to wars where nobody will be killed or where the enemy has not committed a rights violation but can be justifiably warred against (...) anyway. This account also avoids the inefficiency of having proportionality considerations come up at two different points: in a separate criterion of just cause and in the criterion of proportionality proper. ‘Right intention’, the subjective element of the justification of a war, on the other hand, is not to be subsumed under the criterion of just cause: there can be a just cause without anybody knowing it. Conversely, however, the subjective element requires that those responsible for waging the war do know that the justifying objective conditions are fulfilled. This is in one sense more demanding than traditional just war theory; in another sense, however, it is less demanding: nobody needs to intend to fight for a ‘just aim’. (shrink)
A discussion of Aristotle’s thought on determinism and culpability, Necessity, Cause, and Blame also reveals Richard Sorabji’s own philosophical commitments. He makes the original argument here that Aristotle separates the notions of necessity and cause, rejecting both the idea that all events are necessarily determined as well as the idea that a non-necessitated event must also be non-caused. In support of this argument, Sorabji engages in a wide-ranging discussion of explanation, time, free will, essence, and purpose in nature. (...) He also provides historical perspective, arguing that these problems remain intimately bound up with modern controversies. “ Necessity, Cause and Blame would be counted by all as one of Sorabji’s finest. The book is essential for philosophers—both specialists on the Greeks and modern thinkers about free will—and also compelling for non-specialists.”—Martha Nussbaum “Original and important . . . The book relates Aristotle’s discussions to both the contemporary debates on determinism and causation and the ancient ones. It is especially detailed on Stoic arguments about necessity . . . and on the social and legal background to Aristotle’s thought.”— Choice “It is difficult to convey the extraordinary richness of this book. . . . A Greekless philosopher could read it with pleasure . . . At the same time, its learning and scholarship are enormous.”—G. E. M. Anscombe, Times Literary Supplement. (shrink)
It may seem obvious that causing disability in another person is morally problematic in a way that removing or preventing a disability is not. This suggests that there is a moral asymmetry between causing disability and causing non-disability. This chapter investigates whether there are any differences between these two types of actions that might explain the existence of a general moral asymmetry. After setting aside the possibility that having a disability is almost always bad or harmful for a person (a (...) view that we have critiqued at length elsewhere), seven putative differences are considered. Ultimately, it is concluded that none of these seven factors can ground a general moral asymmetry between causing disability and causing non-disability, though each factor can provide some moral reason to avoid causing disability in certain particular cases. (shrink)
To explain an intentional action one must exhibit the agents reasons. Donald Davidson famously argued that the only clear way to understand action explanation is to hold that reasons are causes. Davidsons discussion conflated two issues: whether reasons are causes and whether reasons causally explain intentional action. Contemporary work on explanation and normativity help disentangle these issues and ground an argument that intentional action explanations cannot be a species of causal explanation. Interestingly, this conclusion is consistent with Davidsons conclusion that (...) reasons are causes. In other words, reasons are causes, but rationalizing explanations are not causal explanations. Key Words: action theory explanation causal explanation rationality Donald Davidson. (shrink)
We propose a new definition of actual causes, using structural equations to model counterfactuals. We show that the definition yields a plausible and elegant account of causation that handles well examples which have caused problems for other definitions and resolves major difficultiesn in the traditional account.
This paper is about the history of a question in ancient Greek philosophy and medicine: what holds the parts of a whole together? The idea that there is a single cause responsible for cohesion is usually associated with the Stoics. They refer to it as the synectic cause (αἴτιον συνεκτικόν), a term variously translated as ‘cohesive cause,’ ‘containing cause’ or ‘sustaining cause.’ The Stoics, however, are neither the first nor the only thinkers to raise this (...) question or to propose a single answer. Many earlier thinkers offer their own candidates for what actively binds parts together, with differing implications not only for why we are wholes rather than heaps, but also why our bodies inevitably become diseased and fall apart. This paper assembles, up to the time of the Stoics, one part of the history of such a cause: what is called ‘the synechon’ (τὸ συνέχον) – that which holds things together. Starting with our earliest evidence from Anaximenes (sixth century BCE), the paper looks at different candidates and especially the models and metaphors for thinking about causes of cohesion which were proposed by different philosophers and doctors including Empedocles, early Greek doctors, Diogenes of Apollonia, Plato and Aristotle. My goal is to explore why these candidates and models were proposed and how later philosophical objections to them led to changes in how causes of cohesion were understood. (shrink)
Do I cause global warming, climate change and their related harms when I go for a leisure drive with my gas-guzzling car? The current verdict seems to be that I do not; the emissions produced by my drive are much too insignificant to make a difference for the occurrence of global warming and its related harms. I argue that our verdict on this issue depends on what we mean by ‘causation’. If we for instance assume a simple counterfactual analysis (...) of causation according to which ‘C causes E’ means ‘if C had not occurred, E would not have occurred’, we must conclude that a single drive does not cause global warming. However, this analysis of causation is well-known for giving counterintuitive results in some important cases. If we instead adopt Lewis’s analysis of causation, it turns out that it is indeterminate whether I cause global warming when I go for a single drive. Still, in contexts where we seek to control or understand global warming, there is a pressure to adopt a more fragile view of this event. When we adopt such a view, it turns out that a single drive does cause global warming. This means that we cannot like Sinnott-Armstrong and Kingston and Sinnott-Armstrong reject the idea that I should refrain from going for a leisure drive simply because such a drive does not cause global warming. (shrink)
Much of the philosophical literature on causation has focused on the concept of actual causation, sometimes called token causation. In particular, it is this notion of actual causation that many philosophical theories of causation have attempted to capture.2 In this paper, we address the question: what purpose does this concept serve? As we shall see in the next section, one does not need this concept for purposes of prediction or rational deliberation. What then could the purpose be? We will argue (...) that one can gain an important clue here by looking at the ways in which causal judgments are shaped by people‘s understanding of norms. (shrink)
A condition is formulated in terms of the probabilities of two pairs of correlated events in a classical probability space which is necessary for the two correlations to have a single (Reichenbachian) common-cause and it is shown that there exists pairs of correlated events probabilities of which violate the necessary condition. It is concluded that different correlations do not in general have a common common-cause. It is also shown that this conclusion remains valid even if one weakens slightly (...) Reichenbach's definition of common-cause. The significance of the difference between common-causes and common common-causes is emphasized from the perspective of Reichenbach's Common Cause Principle. (shrink)
Most people are skeptical of the claim that the expectation that a person would have a life that would be well worth living provides a reason to cause that person to exist. In this essay I argue that to cause such a person to exist would be to confer a benefit of a noncomparative kind and that there is a moral reason to bestow benefits of this kind. But this conclusion raises many problems, among which is that it (...) must be determined how the benefits conferred on people by causing them to exist weigh against comparable benefits conferred on existing people. In particular, might the reason to cause people to exist ever outweigh the reason to save the lives of existing people? (shrink)
When two rocks shatter the window at once, what causes the window to shatter? Is the throwing of each individual rock a cause of the window shattering, or are the throwings only causes collectively? This question bears on the analysis of causation, and the metaphysics of macro-causation. I argue that the throwing of each individual rock is a cause of the window shattering, and generally that individual overdeterminers are causes.
We propose a new definition of actual causes, using structural equations to model counterfactuals. We show that the definition yields a plausible and elegant account of causation that handles well examples which have caused problems for other definitions and resolves major difficulties in the traditional account. 1. Introduction2. Causal models: a review2.1Causal models2.2Syntax and semantics3. The definition of cause4. Examples5. A more refined definition6. DiscussionAAppendix: Some Technical IssuesA.1The active causal processA.2A closer look at AC2(b)A.3Causality with infinitely many variablesA.4Causality in nonrecursive (...) models. (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)
When is a cause of a cause of an effect also a cause of that effect? The right answer is either Sometimes or Always . In favour of Always , transitivity is considered by some to be necessary for distinguishing causes from redundant non-causal events. Moreover transitivity may be motivated by an interest in an unselective notion of causation, untroubled by principles of invidious discrimination. And causal relations appear to add up like transitive relations, so that the (...) obtaining of the overarching relation is not independent of the obtaining of the intermediaries. On the other hand, in favour of Sometimes , often we seem not to treat events that are very spatiotemporally remote from an effect as its causes, even when connected to the effect in question by a chain of counterfactual or chance-raising dependence. Moreover cases of double prevention provide counterexamples to causal transitivity even over short chains. According to the argument of this paper, causation is non-transitive. Transitizing causation provides no viable account of causal redundancy. An unselective approach to causation may motivate resisting the distance counterexamples to transitivity, but it does not help with double prevention, and even makes it more intractable. The strongest point in favour of transitivity is the adding up of causal relations, and this is the point that extant non-transitizing analyses have not adequately addressed. I propose a necessary condition on causation that explains the adding up phenomenon. In doing so it also provides a unifying explanation of distance and double prevention counterexamples to transitivity. (shrink)
As Socrates recounts his search for causes (aitiai) in the Phaedo, he identifies the following as genuine causes: intelligence (nous), seeming best, choice of the best, and the forms. I argue that these causes should be understood as norms prescribing the conditions their effects must meet if those effects are to be produced. Thus, my account both explains what Socrates’ causes are and the way in which they cause what they cause.
Negative causation occurs when an absence serves as cause, effect, or causal intermediary. Negative causation is genuine causation, or so I shall argue. It involves no physical connection between cause and effect. Thus causes need not be physically connected to their effects.
A just cause for war is a type of wrong that may make those responsible for it morally liable to military attack as a means of preventing or rectifying it. This claim has implications that conflict with assumptions of the current theory of just war.
This chapter explores some issues having to do with the structure of the evidential reasoning we use to infer causal and lawful claims. It is argued that such reasoning always makes use of prior, causally, or nomologically committed information, thus undercutting various views that attempt to reduce causal and lawful claims to claims about regularities. A non-reductive account of laws and causes built around the notion of invariance is advanced as an alternative.
This paper examines Plato's ideas on cause-effect relations in the "Phaedo." It maintains that he sees causes as things (not events, states of affairs or the like), with any information as to how that thing brings about the effect relegated to a strictly secondary status. This is argued to make good sense, so long as we recognise that aition means the "thing responsible" and exploit legal analogies in order to understand what this amounts to. Furthermore, provided that we do (...) not pre-suppose that we already know what can and what cannot count as a cause, Plato proves to have an attractive case for his principle that all causation is a matter of like causing like. Once we appreciate this, we are a little closer to understanding his more idiosyncratic principle, which although puzzling is ubiquitous in his writings and often invoked as a premise in key arguments, that opposites cannot cause opposites. The last part of the paper turns to formal causes, defending Plato's advocacy of them, and examining their role in the "Parmenides'" Third Man Argument. The main proposal is that Plato's conception of Forms as causes opens the door to a better version of that argument's "Non-identity" premise than those currently available. (shrink)
This is the earliest critical discussion in the context of modern/contemporary philosophy in the analytical tradition arguing that somebody with a reasonably stable character and the company of the right people would be able to enjoy eternity.
Many philosophers are persuaded by familiar arguments that free will is incompatible with causal determinism. Yet, notoriously, past attempts to articulate how the right type of indeterminism might secure the capacity for autonomous action have generally been regarded as either demonstrably inadequate or irremediably obscure. This volume gathers together the most significant recent discussions concerning the prospects for devising a satisfactory indeterministic account of freedom of action. These essays give greater precision to traditional formulations of the problems associated with indeterministic (...) accounts and to the range of theoretical avenues for pursuing resolutions. The first four essays set out different challenges (from both compatibilists and those skeptical of the possibility of free will) to the adequacy of standard indeterministic theories. The next seven essays meet one or more of these challenges. Each of the fundamental types of approach--simple indeterminism, causal indeterminism, and agent causation--is represented in these novel and sophisticated proposals. The collection finishes with two essays that debate whether compatibilism entails that freedom of choice is a comparatively rare phenomenon within an individual's life. Eloquently presenting some of the most compelling and accessible arguments surrounding this central philosophical issue, Agents, Causes, and Events makes a valuable contribution to courses in free will/action theory and metaphysics. (shrink)
The interventionist account of causation offers a criterion to distinguish causes from non-causes. It also aims at defining various desirable properties of causal relationships, such as specificity, proportionality and stability. Here we apply an information-theoretic approach to these properties. We show that the interventionist criterion of causation is formally equivalent to non-zero specificity, and that there are natural, information-theoretic ways to explicate the distinction between potential and actual causal influence. We explicate the idea that the description of causes should be (...) proportional to that of their effects. Then we draw a distinction between two ideas in the existing literature, the range of invariance of a causal relationship and its stability. The range of invariance is related to specificity and range of causal values. Stability concerns the effect of additional variables on the relationship between some focal pair of cause and effect variables. We show how to distinguish and measure the direct influence of background variables on the effect variable, and their influence on the relationship between the focal cause and the effect variable. Finally, we discuss the limitations of the information-theoretic approach, and offer prospects for complementary approaches. (shrink)
We propose new definitions of (causal) explanation, using structural equations to model counterfactuals. The definition is based on the notion of actual cause, as defined and motivated in a companion article. Essentially, an explanation is a fact that is not known for certain but, if found to be true, would constitute an actual cause of the fact to be explained, regardless of the agent's initial uncertainty. We show that the definition handles well a number of problematic examples from (...) the literature. (shrink)
this paper offers a new interpretation of Phaedo 96a–103a. Plato has devoted the dialogue up to this point to a series of arguments for the claim that the soul is immortal. However, one of the characters, Cebes, insists that so far nothing more has been established than that the soul is durable, divine, and in existence before the incarnation of birth. What is needed is something more ambitious: a proof that the soul is not such as to pass out of (...) existence. According to Socrates’s initial response to Cebes at 95e8–96a1, giving such a demonstration requires a thorough investigation into “the reason for coming to be and passing away in general” (ὅλως γὰρ δεῖ περὶ γενέσεως καὶ φθορᾶς τὴν αἰτίαν διαπραγματεύσασθαι 95e9–96a1). This leads Socrates to the passage with which this paper is concerned. He mentions several changes of different sorts and nominates some purported “causes” that he and other theorists used to accept, but which he now finds scarcely intelligible. He then expounds his own mature view that the Forms are causes. The existing literature on this passage is vast and highly sophisticated, so much so that one might reasonably despair of saying something new at this stage. Nevertheless, I think some of Socrates’s remarks on philosophical methodology in our passage have not yet been appreciated as deeply as they should be. In particular, there has been little work showing how well-integrated they are with his positive proposals about causes. I also think that there are metaphysical models available to modern philosophers, not merely coherent with but actually suggested by Socrates’s methodology, which give a more satisfactory picture of those positive proposals than others available in the contemporary literature. That, at any rate, is what this paper aims to provide. (shrink)
In an important departure from theories of causation, David Owens proposes that coincidences have no causes, and that a cause is something which ensures that its effects are no coincidence. In Causes and Coincidences, he elucidates the idea of a coincidence as an event which can be analysed into constituent events, the nomological antecedents of which are independent of each other. He also suggests that causal facts can be analysed in terms of non-causal facts, including relations of necessity. Thus, (...) causation is defined in terms of coincidence, and coincidence without reference to causation. David Owens challenges the ideas associated with Hume, Davidson and Lewis, constructing a theory which distinguishes nomological necessity and sufficiency from their logical counterparts. He is able to offer novel solutions to the major problems of causation, including the direction of causation, the logical form of causal statements, the distinction betwen causal connections and logical connections, and the relationship between psychological and physical causation. (shrink)
'A fascinating book. It contains a sweeping survey of approaches to causation and explanation from the Presocratic philosophers to the Neo-platonist philosophers. Hankinson pays a visit to every major figure and movement in between: the sophists, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Sceptics, the Epicureans and a variety of medical writers, early and late... impressive... Hankinson's observations are regularly intriguing, at times refreshingly trenchant, and in some cases straightforwardly arresting... the history itself is excellent: clear, intelligently conceived and executed, and broadly (...) accessible. Those in search of a philosophically astute history of clasical philosophy given in terms of one of its own central unifying obsessions will delight in reading R. J. Hankinson's work.' -Christopher Sheilds, Times Literary SupplementR. J. Hankinson traces the history of ancient Greek thinking about causation and explanation. He examines how the Greeks dealt with questions about how and why things happen as and when they do, about the basic constitution and structure of things, about function and purpose, laws of nature, chance, coincidence, and responsibility. Such diverse questions are unified by the fact that they are all demands for explanation, for an account of the world that will render it amenable to prediction and control. (shrink)
The leading accounts of the nature of causation divide into probability-raising and process-linkage views. On the probability-raising view, causation is rooted in the comparative probability of the effect with the cause versus without. On the process-linkage view, causation is rooted in the existence of a connecting line from cause to effect. I propose a third alternative which synthesizes these views while solving their problem cases. On this alternative, causation is rooted in the comparative probability of the connecting line (...) to the effect with the cause versus without: causes as probability raisers of processes. In the first two sections, I (briefly) outline the probability-raising and process-linkage views and identify a space of problems, and then I focus on developing the alternative probability-raisers-of-processes solution. I identify problems for this view as well, though I conclude that it is at least in important respects a step forward. (shrink)
Essence and causation are fundamental in metaphysics, but little is said about their relations. Some essential properties are of course causal, as it is essential to footprints to have been caused by feet. But I am interested less in causation's role in essence than the reverse: the bearing a thing's essence has on its causal powers. That essencemight make a causal contribution is hinted already by the counterfactual element in causation; and the hint is confirmed by the explanation essence offers (...) of something otherwise mysterious, namely, how events exactly alike in every ordinary respect, like the bolt'ssuddenly snapping and its snapping per se, manage to disagree in what they cause. Some prior difference must exist between these events to make their causal powers unlike. Paradoxically, though, it can only be in point of a property, suddenness, which both events possess in common. Only by postulating a difference in themanner — essential or accidental — of the property's possession is the paradox resolved. Next we need an account of causation in which essence plays an explicit determinative role. That account, based on the idea that causes should becommensurate with their effects, is thatx causesy only if nothing essentially poorer would have done, and nothing essentially richer was needed. (shrink)
Crosslinguistically, causative constructions conform to the following generalization: If the causal relation is syntactically concealed, then it is semantically direct. Concealed causatives span a wide syntactic spectrum, ranging from resultative complements in English to causative subjects in Miskitu. A unified type-driven theory is proposed which attributes the understood causal relation—and other elements of constructional meaning—to type lifting operations predictably licensed by type mismatch at LF. The proposal has far-reaching theoretical implications not only for the theory of compositionality and causation, but (...) also for the underlying theory of events, space, and time, in natural language discourse. (shrink)