It is often argued that higher-level special-science properties cannot be causally efficacious since the lower-level physical properties on which they supervene are doing all the causal work. This claim is usually derived from an exclusion principle stating that if a higherlevel property F supervenes on a physical property F* that is causally sufficient for a property G, then F cannot cause G. We employ an account of causation as differencemaking to show that the truth or falsity of this principle is (...) a contingent matter and derive necessary and sufficient conditions under which a version of it holds. We argue that one important instance of the principle, far from undermining non-reductive physicalism, actually supports the causal autonomy of certain higher-level properties. (shrink)
In this paper we defend the view that the ordinary notions of cause and effect have a direct and essential connection with our ability to intervene in the world as agents.1 This is a well known but rather unpopular philosophical approach to causation, often called the manipulability theory. In the interests of brevity and accuracy, we prefer to call it the agency theory.2 Thus the central thesis of an agency account of causation is something like this: an event A is (...) a cause of a distinct event B just in case bringing about the occurrence of A would be an effective means by which a free agent could bring about the occurrence of B. In our view the unpopularity of the agency approach to causation may be traced to two factors. The first is a failure to appreciate certain distinctive advantages that this approach has over its various rivals. We have drawn attention to some of these advantages elsewhere, and we summarize below. However, the second and more important factor is the influence of a number of stock objections, objections that seem to have persuaded many philosophers that agency accounts face insuperable obstacles. In this paper we want to show that these objections have been vastly overrated. There are four main objections. (shrink)
Delusional beliefs have sometimes been considered as rational inferences from abnormal experiences. We explore this idea in more detail, making the following points. Firstly, the abnormalities of cognition which initially prompt the entertaining of a delusional belief are not always conscious and since we prefer to restrict the term “experience” to consciousness we refer to “abnormal data” rather than “abnormal experience”. Secondly, we argue that in relation to many delusions (we consider eight) one can clearly identify what the abnormal cognitive (...) data are which prompted the delusion and what the neuropsychological impairment is which is responsible for the occurrence of these data; but one can equally clearly point to cases where this impairments is present but delusion is not. So the impairment is not sufficient for delusion to occur. A second cognitive impairment, one which impairs the ability to evaluate beliefs, must also be present. Thirdly (and this is the main thrust of our chapter) we consider in detail what the nature of the inference is that leads from the abnormal data to the belief. This is not deductive inference and it is not inference by enumerative induction; it is abductive inference. We offer a Bayesian account of abductive inference and apply it to the explanation of delusional belief. (shrink)
The systems studied in the special sciences are often said to be causally autonomous, in the sense that their higher-level properties have causal powers that are independent of the causal powers of their more basic physical properties. This view was espoused by the British emergentists, who claimed that systems achieving a certain level of organizational complexity have distinctive causal powers that emerge from their constituent elements but do not derive from them. More recently, non-reductive physicalists have espoused a similar view (...) about the causal autonomy of special-science properties. They argue that since these properties can typically have multiple physical realizations, they are not identical to physical properties, and further they possess causal powers that differ from those of their physical realisers. Despite the orthodoxy of this view, it is hard to find a clear exposition of its meaning or a defence of it in terms of a well-motivated account of causation. In this paper, we aim to address this gap in the literature by clarifying what is implied by the doctrine of the causal autonomy of special-science properties and by defending the doctrine using a prominent theory of causation from the philosophy of science. (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)
The basic idea of counterfactual theories of causation is that the meaning of causal claims can be explained in terms of counterfactual conditionals of the form “If A had not occurred, C would not have occurred”. While counterfactual analyses have been given of type-causal concepts, most counterfactual analyses have focused on singular causal or token-causal claims of the form “event c caused event e”. Analyses of token-causation have become popular in the last thirty years, especially since the development in the (...) 1970's of possible world semantics for counterfactuals. The best known counterfactual analysis of causation is David Lewis's (1973b) theory. However, intense discussion over thirty years has cast doubt on the adequacy of any simple analysis of singular causation in terms of counterfactuals. Recent years have seen a proliferation of different refinements of the basic idea to achieve a closer match with commonsense judgements about causation. (shrink)
Several different approaches to the conceptual analysis of causation are guided by the idea that a cause is something that makes a difference to its effects. These approaches seek to elucidate the concept of causation by explicating the concept of a difference-maker in terms of better-understood concepts. There is no better example of such an approach than David Lewis’ analysis of causation, in which he seeks to explain the concept of a difference-maker in counterfactual terms. Lewis introduced his counterfactual theory (...) of causation with these words: 'We think of a cause as something that makes a difference, and the difference it makes must be a difference from what would have happened without it. Had it been absent, its effects—some of them, at least, and usually all—would have been absent as well.' (Lewis 1973b: pp. 160-1) According to Lewis, a cause c makes a difference to an effect e in the sense that if the cause c had not occurred, the effect e would not have occurred either. All we shall see in section 2, Lewis’ theory says there is more to the concept of causation than this counterfactual condition. Lewis is on the right track, I think, in saying that we think of a cause as something that makes a difference and that this thought is best explicated in terms of counterfactual concepts. However, I shall argue that the particular way in which Lewis spells out the concept of a cause as difference-maker is unsatisfactory. For Lewis’ articulation of this concept is distorted by a specific metaphysical assumption: specifically, that causation is an absolute relation, specifiable independently of any contextual factors. The distortion induced by this assumption is reflected in the undiscriminating manner in which his theory generates countless causes for any given effect. However, commonsense judgement is much more discriminating about causes than Lewis’ theory. Accordingly, I claim that Lewis' analysis faces the problem of profligate causes and I outline some specific problem cases in section 3.. (shrink)
This paper examines a promising probabilistic theory of singular causation developed by David Lewis. I argue that Lewis' theory must be made more sophisticated to deal with certain counterexamples involving pre-emption. These counterexamples appear to show that in the usual case singular causation requires an unbroken causal process to link cause with effect. I propose a new probabilistic account of singular causation, within the framework developed by Lewis, which captures this intuition.
We offer a critical assessment of the “exclusion argument” against free will, which may be summarized by the slogan: “My brain made me do it, therefore I couldn't have been free”. While the exclusion argument has received much attention in debates about mental causation (“could my mental states ever cause my actions?”), it is seldom discussed in relation to free will. However, the argument informally underlies many neuroscientific discussions of free will, especially the claim that advances in neuroscience seriously challenge (...) our belief in free will. We introduce two distinct versions of the argument, discuss several unsuccessful responses to it, and then present our preferred response. This involves showing that a key premise – the “exclusion principle” – is false under what we take to be the most natural account of causation in the context of agency: the difference-making account. We finally revisit the debate about neuroscience and free will. (shrink)
There have long been controversies about how it is that minds can fit into a physical universe. Emergence in Mind presents new essays by a distinguished group of philosophers investigating whether mental properties can be said to 'emerge' from the physical processes in the universe. Such emergence requires mental properties to be different from physical properties, and much of the discussion relates to what the consequences of such a difference might be in areas such as freedom of the will, and (...) the possibility of scientific explanations of non-physical phenomena. The volume also extends the debate about emergence by considering the independence of chemical properties from physical properties, and investigating what would need to be the case for there to be groups that could be said to exercise rationality. (shrink)
In the history of modern philosophy systematic connections were assumed to hold between the modal concepts of logical possibility and necessity and the concept of conceivability. However, in the eyes of many contemporary philosophers, insuperable objections face any attempt to analyze the modal concepts in terms of conceivability. It is important to keep in mind that a philosophical explanation of modality does not have to take the form of a reductive analysis. In this paper I attempt to provide a response-dependent (...) account of the modal concepts in terms of conceivability along the lines of a nonreductive model of explanation. (shrink)
Recently, a number of philosophers of science have claimed that much explanation in the sciences, especially in the biomedical and social sciences, is mechanistic explanation. I argue the account of mechanistic explanation provided in this tradition has not been entirely satisfactory, as it has neglected to describe in complete detail the crucial causal structure of mechanistic explanation. I show how the interventionist approach to causation, especially within a structural equations framework, provides a simple and elegant account of the causal structure (...) of mechanisms. This account explains the many useful insights of traditional accounts of mechanism, such as Carl Craver's account in his book Explaining the Brain , but also helps to correct the omissions of such accounts. One of these omissions is the failure to provide an explicit formulation of a modularity constraint that plays a significant role in mechanistic explanation. One virtue of the interventionist/structural equations framework is that it allows for a simple formulation of a modularity constraint on mechanistic explanation. I illustrate the role of this constraint in the last section of the paper, which describes the form that mechanistic explanation takes in the computational, information-processing paradigm of cognitive psychology. (shrink)
Judea Pearl (2000) has recently advanced a theory of token causation using his structural equations approach. This paper examines some counterexamples to Pearl's theory, and argues that the theory can be modified in a natural way to overcome them.
Non-reductive physicalism is the view that mental events cause other events in virtue of their mental properties and that mental properties supervene on, without being identical to, physical properties. Jaegwon Kim has presented several much-discussed arguments against this view. But the much simpler causal closure argument, which purports to establish that every mental property is identical to a physical property, has received less attention than Kim’s arguments. This paper aims to show how a non-reductive physicalist should rebut the causal closure (...) argument. A crucial premise in the argument is a principle stating that the physical world is causally closed. It states, roughly, that every physical event has a physical sufficient cause. I argue that when the principle is formulated in this way, the causal closure argument is invalid. Less frequently, the causal closure principle is formulated in terms of a difference-making conception of causation so that it states that every physical effect has a physical difference-making cause. I argue that the principle, so formulated, is false and the causal closure argument unsound. Either way the argument lacks the apodeictic force to compel acceptance of its conclusion. (shrink)
Paul Pietroski presents an original philosophical theory of actions and their mental causes. We often act for reasons, deliberating and choosing among options, based on our beliefs and desires. But because bodily motions always have biochemical causes, 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.
You are asked to call out the letters on a chart during an eyeexamination: you see and then read out the letters ‘U’, ‘R’, and ‘X’. Commonsense says that your perceptual experiences causally control your calling out the letters. Or suppose you are playing a game of chess intent on winning: you plan your strategy and move your chess pieces accordingly. Again, commonsense says that your intentions and plans causally control your moving the chess pieces. These causal judgements are as (...) plain and evident as any can be. (shrink)
The so-called Canberra Plan is a grandchild of the Ramsey-Carnap treatment of theoretical terms. In its original form, the Ramsey-Carnap approach provided a method for analysing the meaning of scientific terms, such as “electron”, “gene” and “quark”—terms whose meanings could plausibly be delineated by their roles within scientific theories. But in the hands of David Lewis (1970, 1972), the original approach begat a more ambitious descendant, generalised and extended in two distinct ways: first, Lewis applied the technique to analyse the (...) meaning of terms introduced not just by explicit scientific theories, but also by implicit folk theories such as folk psychology; second, he supplemented the theory to provide an account of the way in which the referents of the analysed terms might be identified on the basis of empirical investigation. (shrink)
I agree with Knobe's claim in his “Person as Scientist, Person as Moralist” article that moral considerations are integral to the workings of people's competence in making causal judgments. However, I disagree with the particular explanation he gives of the way in which moral considerations influence causal judgments. I critically scrutinize his explanation and outline a better one.
Modal functionalism is the view that talk about possible worlds should be construed as talk about fictional objects. The version of modal fictionalism originally presented by Gideon Rosen adopted a simple prefixing strategy for fictionalising possible worlds analyses of modal propositions. However, Stuart Brock and Rosen himself in a later article have independently advanced an objection that shows that the prefixing strategy cannot serve fictionalist purposes. In this paper we defend fictionalism about possible worlds by showing that there are other (...) strategies besides the prefixing strategy for fictionalising talk about possible worlds, and that these strategies are proof against the objection advanced by Brock and Rosen. (shrink)
This book advocates dispositional essentialism, the view that natural properties have dispositional essences. 1 So, for example, the essence of the property of being negatively charged is to be disposed to attract positively charged objects. From this fact it follows that it is a law that all negatively charged objects will attract positively charged objects; and indeed that this law is metaphysically necessary. Since the identity of the property of being negatively charged is determined by its being related in a (...) certain way to the property of being positively charged, in any world in which these properties exist they must be related so that all negatively charged objects attract positively charged objects.Bird opposes his dispositional essentialism to the view that properties are categorical in nature, with their identities grounded in quiddities that are not exhausted by their relations to other properties. The main exponents of this view are D.M. Armstrong and David Lewis. They take the laws of nature to be contingent though they entertain very different views about their nature: Armstrong is a necessitarian about laws, taking them to be relations of nomic necessitation between universals, while Lewis is a Humean about laws who takes them to be a special kind of regularity. The book is a sustained defence of the dispositional essentialist conception of properties and laws against the competing conceptions espoused by Armstrong and Lewis. One rough way to characterize the difference between these conceptions is to say that the categoricalist sees properties as passive and inert with the laws of nature being fixed independently of the nature of properties whereas, in contrast, the dispositional essentialist sees properties as active potencies from which the laws of nature automatically spring. A slightly more tendentious way to express the difference is to say, as Bird does, that the …. (shrink)
This paper criticizes a recent account of token causation that states that negative causation involving absences of events is of a fundamentally different kind from positive causation involving events. The paper employs the structural equations framework to advance a theory of token causation that applies uniformly to positive and negative causation alike.
thought-provoking exploration of the role of laws and models in the sciences, with In her alternative metaphysical framework, Cartwright relegates regularities in special emphasis on physics and economics. Cartwright proposes a novel metaphysics..
had a salutary influence in encouraging metaphysicians to think about these issues of each other. But, as it happens, they come across their victim at the same time and place. Both assassins take careful aim, their fingers poised to pull their in clear-headed, realist ways.