According to ‘regularity theories’ of causation, the obtaining of causal relations depends on no more than the obtaining of certain kinds of regularity. Regularity theorists are thus anti-realists about necessary connections in nature. Regularity theories of one form or another have constituted the dominant view in analytic Philosophy for a long time, but have recently come in for some robust criticism, notably from Galen Strawson. Strawson’s criticisms are natural criticisms to make, but have not so far provoked much response from (...) regularity theorists. The paper considers and rebuts Strawson’s objections. For example, Strawson claims that if there were no necessary connections in nature, we ought continually to find the regularity of the Universe surprising. I argue that the fact that the Universe is regular is something we take ourselves (fallibly) to know, and hence, in the light of this knowledge, its continued orderliness is not at all surprising. -/- . (shrink)
Recently several thought experiments have been developed which have been alleged to refute the Ramsey-Lewis view of laws of nature. The paper aims to show that two such thought experiments fail to establish that the Ramsey-Lewis view is false, since they presuppose a conception of laws of nature that is radically at odds with the Humean conception of laws embodied by the Ramsey-Lewis view. In particular, the thought experiments presuppose that laws of nature govern the behavior of objects. The paper (...) argues that the claim that laws govern should not be regarded as a conceptual truth, and shows how the governing conception of laws manifests itself in the thought experiments. Hence the thought experiments do not constitute genuine counter-examples to the Ramsey-Lewis view. since the Humean is free to reject the conception of laws which the thought experiments presuppose. (shrink)
Humean compatibilism is the combination of a Humean position on laws of nature and the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. This article's aim is to situate Humean compatibilism in the current debate among libertarians, traditional compatibilists, and semicompatibilists about free will. We argue that a Humean about laws can hold that there is a sense in which the laws of nature are 'up to us' and hence that the leading style of argument for incompatibilism?the consequence argument?has a (...) false premiss. We also display some striking similarities between Humean compatibilism and libertarianism, an incompatibilist view. For example, standard libertarians face a problem about luck, and we show that Humean compatibilists face a very similar problem. (shrink)
The paper considers whether psychiatric kinds can be natural kinds and concludes that they can. This depends, however, on a particular conception of ‘natural kind’. We briefly describe and reject two standard accounts – what we call the ‘stipulative account’ (according to which apparently a priori criteria, such as the possession of intrinsic essences, are laid down for natural kindhood) and the ‘Kripkean account’ (according to which the natural kinds are just those kinds that obey Kripkean semantics). We then rehearse (...) a more permissive account: Richard Boyd’s ‘homeostatic property cluster’ (HPC) account. We argue that psychiatric kinds can in principle count as natural kinds on the HPC account. Moreover, specific psychiatric kinds (Tourette’s, schizophrenia, etc.) can be natural kinds even if the category psychiatric disorder is not itself a natural kind. (shrink)
Causation is one of the most important and enduring topics in philosophy, going back to Aristotle. In this important book, Helen Beebee covers all the major debates and issues in the philosophy of causation. Beginning with an introduction to the concept, Causation examines the most important philosopher of causation, David Hume, and assesses the problems of induction and necessary connection in light of Hume's thought. Beebee then investigates different theories of causation and challenges to the Humane approach. She considers the (...) concepts of regularity, causal experience, necessity, and essences. Throughout the book, she examines and critically discusses other important philosophers on causation, including JL Mackie, John Wright, and Brian Ellis. (shrink)
Causation is a central topic in many areas of philosophy. In metaphysics, philosophers want to know what causation is, and how it is related to laws of nature, probability, action, and freedom of the will. In epistemology, philosophers investigate how causal claims can be inferred from statistical data, and how causation is related to perception, knowledge and explanation. In the philosophy of mind, philosophers want to know whether and how the mind can be said to have causal efficacy, and in (...) ethics, whether there is a moral distinction between acts and omissions and whether the moral value of an act can be judged according to its consequences. And causation is a contested concept in other fields of enquiry, such as biology, physics, and the law. This book provides an in-depth and comprehensive overview of these and other topics, as well as the history of the causation debate from the ancient Greeks to the logical empiricists. The chapters provide surveys of contemporary debates, while often also advancing novel and controversial claims; and each includes a comprehensive bibliography and suggestions for further reading. The book is thus the most comprehensive source of information about causation currently available, and will be invaluable for upper-level undergraduates through to professional philosophers. (shrink)
In this paper Beebee argues that the problem of induction, which she describes as a genuine sceptical problem, is the same for Humeans than for Necessitarians. Neither scientific essentialists nor Armstrong can solve the problem of induction by appealing to IBE, for both arguments take an illicit inductive step.
Essentialism--roughly, the view that natural kinds have discrete essences, generating truths that are necessary but knowable only a posteriori --is an increasingly popular view in the metaphysics of science. At the same time, philosophers of language have been subjecting Kripke’s views about the existence and scope of the necessary a posteriori to rigorous analysis and criticism. Essentialists typically appeal to Kripkean semantics to motivate their radical extension of the realm of the necessary a posteriori ; but they rarely attempt to (...) provide any semantic arguments for this extension, or engage with the critical work being done by philosophers of language. This collection brings authors on both sides together in one volume, thus helping the reader to see the connections between views in philosophy of language on the one hand and the metaphysics of science on the other. The result is a book that will have a significant impact on the debate about essentialism, encouraging essentialists to engage with debates about the semantic presuppositions that underpin their position, and, encouraging philosophers of language to engage with the metaphysical presuppositions enshrined in Kripkean semantics. (shrink)
Singularists about causation often claim that we can have experiences as of causation. This paper argues that regularity theorists need not deny that claim; hence the possibility of causal experience is no objection to regularity theories of causation. The fact that, according to a regularity theorist, causal experience requires background theory does not provide grounds for denying that it is genuine experience. The regularity theorist need not even deny that non-inferential perceptual knowledge of causation is possible, despite the fact that (...) such knowledge would sometimes allow us to make inferences about what happens in far-off places and times. (shrink)
Free will sans metaphysics? Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9525-5 Authors Helen Beebee, Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Many philosophers came to regard “causation” as an illegitimate pseudo-concept. This was a dominant view in analytic philosophy until quite late in the twentieth century. Russell famously quipped that “the law of causality” was “a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm”.
Hume's two definitions of causation have caused an extraordinary amount of controversy. The starting point for the controversy is the fact, well known to most philosophy undergraduates, that the two definitions aren't even extensionally equivalent, let alone semantically equivalent. So how can they both be definitions? One response to this problem has been to argue that Hume intends only the first as a genuine definition—an interpretation that delivers a straightforward regularity interpretation of Hume on causation. By many commentators' lights, however, (...) this is a bug rather than a feature: such an account of the two definitions leaves necessary connection out of Hume's story about the meaning of "cause" .. (shrink)
Scepticism concerning the idea of causation being linked to contingent chance-raising is articulated in Beebee’s challenging chapter. She suggests that none of these approaches will avoid the consequence that spraying defoliant on a weed is a cause of the weed’s subsequent health. We will always be able to abstract away enough of the healthy plant processes so all that’s left is the causal chain involving defoliation and health. In those circumstances, there will be contingent chance-raising. Beebee’s conclusion is that we (...) should reject the idea of contingent chance-raising and just accept that all causation involves chance-raising. This involves the reclassification of some intuitive cases of causation as causal processes without causation but rather hindering (a distinctive kind of process). It seems clear from this discussion and from the brief earlier remarks about the status of prevention that the classification of types of causal processes and the characterization of their link to causation are matters of some importance. (shrink)