This thesis addresses the problem of causalasymmetry. This problem may be characterized as follows: what is the relation R such that if an event c causes an event e c bears relation R to e but e does not bear relation R to e. The traditional Humean account of causalasymmetry is that "R" may be replaced by "temporally prior." Difficulties with this account based on consideration of cases of simultaneous causation and backward causation have (...) given rise to non-Humean accounts of causalasymmetry. This dissertation analyzes some of these difficulties along with various non-Humean approaches. I offer a new theory of causalasymmetry which does not depend upon the temporal priority of causes to their effects and which differs from any of the other theories available. ;In chapter one the problem of causalasymmetry is clarified. This problem is distinguished from related issues. At the same time, I articulate the various philosophical considerations which bear on the scope and importance of this problem. I also state what I take to be the conditions an adequate account of causalasymmetry must satisfy. In the second chapter I discuss the classical Humean analysis of causal priority in terms of temporal priority. It is argued that arguments which have been put forward to show that backwards causation is logically impossible are unconvincing and that there are cases of simultaneous causation. In the third chapter the manipulability theory of causation is treated. Various formulations of this theory, from the most anthropomorphic to the least anthropomorphic are treated as they bear on the problem of causalasymmetry. Manipulability theory is found to be inadequate. ;In chapter four counterfactual theories of causation are considered. A number of counterexamples to these theories are presented and developed. In chapter five, two views which are grouped under "regularity theory" are analyzed and criticized: those of Bromberger and Berofsky. Mackie's earlier and later accounts of causalasymmetry along with Sanford's view are discussed in chapter six. In chapter seven, Erik Brown's recent view is considered alongside "transference theory." In the final chapter I develop a new theory of causal priority which utilizes the "circumstantial" character of the causal relation in accounting for causalasymmetry. (shrink)
In a recent paper CausalAsymmetry, Douglas Ehring has proposed an intriguing solution to the vexing problem of causalasymmetry. The aim of this paper is to show that his theory is not satisfactory. Moreover, the examples that I use in showing the defect of Ehring's theory also indicate that the counterfactual analysis of causation has a problem that cannot be remedied by Marshall Swain's suggested refinement of the counterfactual analysis of causation in Causation and Distinct (...) Events. (shrink)
This paper asks why causal asymmetries should give rise to explanatory asymmetries. One way to give some rationale for the asymmetries of causal explanation is to adopt a pragmatic view of explanation and to stress the fact that causes can be used to manipulate their effects. This paper argues, however, that when one recognizes that causalasymmetry is fundamentally an asymmetry of "connectedness", one can see how causalasymmetry leads to an objective difference (...) between explanations in terms of causes and explanations in terms of effects. The pragmatic differences are subsidiary. (shrink)
The unificationist theory of causal explanation offers a theory of causation and explanation with no causal primitives. Kitcher proposed that it offered an account of explanatory asymmetry, but his proposal has been criticized for being too dependent on contingent facts and surreptitiously supposing causal realism. In addition, critics have argued that unificationism cannot account for asymmetry in a world with symmetric laws of physics and is lead to accept backwards explanation in certain epistemic situations. Unificationism (...) has been defended from some of these objections. We critique those defenses, rejecting some and developing others, as well as adding new ones. In doing so, we argue that objectors are wrong to treat explanatory asymmetry as an a priori matter and that unificationism is appropriately sensitive to the right sort of empirical facts. (shrink)
This essay defends two theses that jointly establish a link between causal and explanatory asymmetry. The first thesis is that statements specifying facts about effects, unlike statements specifying facts about causes, are not "independently variable". The second thesis is that independent variability among purportedly explanatory factors is a necessary condition on scientific explanations.
Why believe Hume's Dictum, according to which there are, roughly speaking, no necessary connections between wholly distinct entities? Schaffer suggests that HD, at least as applied to causal or nomological connections, is motivated as required by the best account of of counterfactuals---namely, a similarity-based possible worlds account, where the operative notion of similarity requires 'miracles'---more specifically, worlds where entities of the same type that actually exist enter into different laws. The main cited motivations for such an account of similarity (...) are first, that some salient contexts presuppose CF asymmetry, and second, that accounts of CFs failing to presuppose CF asymmetry are epistemologically problematic, such that under conditions of determinism, the variations in initial micro-conditions needed to implement a given counterfactual antecedent would result in so many changes to macro-states that evaluation of CFs would be rendered practically impossible. Against the first reason, I argue that no non-artificial contexts presuppose CF asymmetry; against the second, I observe that such micro-variation is compatible, in principle, with significant similarity as regards macroscopic states of affairs---enough, in particular, to allow CFs to be appropriately evaluated. (shrink)
This is a commentary on Mathias Frisch's book Causal Reasoning in Physics (Cambridge 2014). This commentary was presented at the 2016 Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association in a session sponsored by the Society for the Metaphysics of Science.
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 causalasymmetry.
I defend what may loosely be called an eliminativist account of causation by showing how several of the main features of causation, namely asymmetry, transitivity, and necessitation, arise from the combination of fundamental dynamical laws and a special constraint on the macroscopic structure of matter in the past. At the microscopic level, the causal features of necessitation and transitivity are grounded, but not the asymmetry. At the coarse-grained level of the macroscopic physics, the causalasymmetry (...) is grounded, but not the necessitation or transitivity. Thus, at no single level of description does the physics justify the conditions that are taken to be constitutive of causation. Nevertheless, if we mix our reasoning about the microscopic and macroscopic descriptions, the structure provided by the dynamics and special initial conditions can justify the folk concept of causation to a significant extent. I explain why our causal concept works so well even though at bottom it is comprised of a patchwork of principles that don't mesh well. (shrink)
Backtracking influence is influence that zigzags in time. For example, backtracking influence exists when an event E_1 makes an event E_2 more likely by way of a nomic connection that goes from E_1 back in time to an event C and then forward in time to E_2. I contend that in our local region of spacetime, at least, backtracking influence is redundant in the sense that any existing backtracking influence exerted by E_1 on E_2 is equivalent to E_1's temporally direct (...) influence on E_2. I prove the redundancy of backtracking influence using several plausible physical principles without assuming any fundamental temporal or causalasymmetry. This explanation can play a prominent role in an account of why causation appears to be objectively asymmetric regardless of whether the fundamental laws are symmetric. (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)
Our ordinary causal concept seems to fit poorly with how our best physics describes the world. We think of causation as a time-asymmetric dependence relation between relatively local events. Yet fundamental physics describes the world in terms of dynamical laws that are, possible small exceptions aside, time symmetric and that relate global time slices. My goal in this paper is to show why we are successful at using local, time-asymmetric models in causal explanations despite this apparent mismatch with (...) fundamental physics. In particular, I will argue that there is an important connection between time asymmetry and locality, namely: understanding the locality of our causal models is the key to understanding why the physical time asymmetries in our universe give rise to time asymmetry in causal explanation. My theory thus provides a unified account of why causation is local and time asymmetric and thereby enables a reply to Russell’s famous attack on causation. (shrink)
According to a widespread view, which can be traced back to Russell’s famous attack on the notion of cause, causal notions have no legitimate role to play in how mature physical theories represent the world. In this paper I first critically examine a number of arguments for this view that center on the asymmetry of the causal relation and argue that none of them succeed. I then argue that embedding the dynamical models of a theory into richer (...)causal structures can allow us to decide between models in cases where our observational data severely underdetermine our choice of dynamical models. (shrink)
This paper addresses a problem that arises when it comes to inferring deterministic causal chains from pertinent empirical data. It will be shown that to every deterministic chain there exists an empirically equivalent common cause structure. Thus, our overall conviction that deterministic chains are one of the most ubiquitous (macroscopic) causal structures is underdetermined by empirical data. It will be argued that even though the chain and its associated common cause model are empirically equivalent there exists an important (...)asymmetry between the two models with respect to model expansions. This asymmetry might constitute a basis on which to disambiguate corresponding causal inferences on non-empirical grounds. (shrink)
In a 2008 paper, Walmsley argued that the explanations employed in the dynamical approach to cognitive science, as exemplified by the Haken, Kelso and Bunz model of rhythmic finger movement, and the model of infant preservative reaching developed by Esther Thelen and her colleagues, conform to Carl Hempel and Paul Oppenheim’s deductive-nomological model of explanation (also known as the covering law model). Although we think Walmsley’s approach is methodologically sound in that it starts with an analysis of scientific practice rather (...) than a general philosophical framework, we nevertheless feel that there are two problems with his paper. First, he focuses only on the deductivenomological model and so neglects the important fact that explanations are causal. Second, the explanations offered by the dynamical approach do not take the deductive-nomological format, because they do not deduce the explananda from exceptionless laws. Because of these two points, Walmsley makes the dynamical explanations in cognitive science appear problematic, while in fact they are not. (shrink)
On the basis of the Woodhouse causal axiomatics, we show that conformal proper times and an extra variable in addition to those of space and time, together give a physical justification for the ‘chronometric hypothesis’ of general relativity. Indeed, we show that, with a lack of these latter two ingredients and of this hypothesis, clock paradoxes exist for which the unparadoxical asymmetry cannot be recovered when using the ‘clock and message functions’ only. These proper times originate from a (...) given conformal structure of the spacetime when ascribing different compatible projective structures to each Woodhouse particle, and then, each defines a specific Weylian ‘sheaf structure’. In addition, the proper time parameterizations are defined via path-dependent conformal scale factors, which act like sockets for any kind of physical interaction and also represent the values of the variable associated with the extra dimension. (shrink)
Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is small deviations from perfect symmetry in normally bilaterally symmetrical traits. We examined the relationship between FA of five body traits (ear height, length of three digits, and ankle circumference) and self-reported scores of physical and verbal aggression in a sample of 90 boys aged 10 to 15 years. The relationships between FA and scores of aggression (particularly physical aggression) were found to be negative; in other words, the most symmetrical boys showed highest aggression. One trait (...) (ankle circumference) showed the characteristics of “ideal” FA—parametric mean of zero and a normal distribution. Mean asymmetries calculated from six repeated measures of ankle FA in 30 subjects taken over a period of five months showed strong negative associations with scores of physical aggression which were independent of age, height, and weight.It is argued that soft tissue “cyclical” FA (as opposed to “fixed” bony FA) is dependent on the secretion of hormones: for example, cortisol. Causal associations between behavioral traits such as aggresion and hormones will lead to similar correlations between FA and behavior. (shrink)
Process theories of causality seek to explicate causality as a property of individual causal processes. This paper examines the capacity of such theories to account for the asymmetry of causation. Three types of theories of asymmetry are discussed; the subjective, the temporal, and the physical, the third of these being the preferred approach. Asymmetric features of the world, namely the entropic and Kaon arrows, are considered as possible sources of causalasymmetry and a physical theory (...) of asymmetry is subsequently developed with special reference to the questions of objectivity and backwards causation. (shrink)
argues that the success of the backward causation hypothesis in quantum mechanics would provide strong support for a version of Reichenbach's account of the direction of causal processes, which takes the direction of causation to rest on the fork asymmetry. He also criticises my perspectival account of the direction of causation, which takes causalasymmetry to be a projection of our own temporal asymmetry as agents. In this reply I take issue with Dowe's argument at (...) three main points: his claim that the backward causation hypothesis in QM is incompatible with my perspectival approach to the direction of causation; his defence of the fork asymmetry approach against a general criticism of mine based on the time-symmetry of microphysics; and his application of his preferred account of the direction of causal processes to the relevant cases in QM. (shrink)
This paper defends the view that the asymmetry of causation can be explained in terms of probabilistic relationships between event types. Papineau first explores three different versions of the "fork asymmetry", namely David Lewis' asymmetry of overdetermination, the screening-off property of common causes, and Spirtes', Glymour's and Scheines' analysis of probabilistic graphs. He then argues that this fork asymmetry is both a genuine phenomenon and a satisfactory metaphysical reduction of causalasymmetry. In his final (...) section he shows how this reduction can account for the relevance of causal direction to human agency, and in particular for the fact that we can manipulate causes to influence their effects, but not vice versa. (shrink)
Dowe (1996) argues that the success of the backward causation hypothesis in quantum mechanics would provide strong support for a version of Reichenbach's account of the direction of causal processes, which takes the direction of causation to rest on the fork asymmetry. He also criticises my perspectival account of the direction of causation, which takes causalasymmetry to be a projection of our own temporal asymmetry as agents. In this reply I take issue with Dowe's (...) argument at three main points: his claim that the backward causation hypothesis in QM is incompatible with my perspectival approach to the direction of causation; his defence of the fork asymmetry approach against a general criticism of mine based on the time-symmetry of microphysics; and his application of his preferred account of the direction of causal processes to the relevant cases in QM. (shrink)
This paper examines the asymmetrical aspect of causal relation, confronting it to Humean and Neo-Humean's view. Following Hausman and Ehring, we favor a situational approach to causalasymmetry. We explore the Hausman's analysis of flagpole's example, clearing the connexions between causation and explanation. Our general diagnosis is that the Neo-humean tradition wrongly supposes that nomic relations, with the exception of minor details, exhaust the causal relations.
Mathias Frisch provides the first sustained philosophical discussion of conceptual problems in classical particle-field theories. Part of the book focuses on the problem of a satisfactory equation of motion for charged particles interacting with electromagnetic fields. As Frisch shows, the standard equation of motion results in a mathematically inconsistent theory, yet there is no fully consistent and conceptually unproblematic alternative theory. Frisch describes in detail how the search for a fundamental equation of motion is partly driven by pragmatic considerations (like (...) simplicity and mathematical tractability) that can override the aim for full consistency. The book also offers a comprehensive review and criticism of both the physical and philosophical literature on the temporal asymmetry exhibited by electromagnetic radiation fields, including Einstein's discussion of the asymmetry and Wheeler and Feynman's influential absorber theory of radiation. Frisch argues that attempts to derive the asymmetry from thermodynamic or cosmological considerations fail and proposes that we should understand the asymmetry as due to a fundamental causal constraint. The book's overarching philosophical thesis is that standard philosophical accounts that strictly identify scientific theories with a mathematical formalism and a mapping function specifying the theory's ontology are inadequate, since they permit neither inconsistent yet genuinely successful theories nor thick causal notions to be part of fundamental physics. (shrink)
When the side effect of an action involves moral considerations (e.g. when a chairman’s pursuit of profits harms the environment) it tends to influence theory-of-mind judgments. On average, bad side effects are judged intentional whereas good side effects are judged unintentional. In a series of two experiments, we examined the largely uninvestigated roles of individual differences in this judgment asymmetry. Experiment 1 indicated that extraversion accounted for variations in intentionality judgments, controlling for a range of other general individual differences (...) (e.g. working memory, self-control). Experiment 2 indicated that extraversion’s influence was partially mediated by more specific variations in intentional action concepts. A priming manipulation also provided causal evidence of judgment instability and bias. Results suggest that the intentional action judgment asymmetry is multiply determined, reflecting the interplay of individual differences and judgment biases. Implications and the roles of individual differences in judgment and decision-making research are discussed. (shrink)
One of the most striking features of causation is that causes typically precede their effects – the causal arrow is strongly aligned with the temporal arrow. Why should this be so? We offer an opinionated guide to this problem, and to the solutions currently on offer. We conclude that the most promising strategy is to begin with the de facto asymmetry of human deliberation, characterised in epistemic terms, and to build out from there. More than any rival, this (...) subjectivist approach promises to demystify the asymmetry, temporal orientation, and deliberative relevance of causal judgements. (shrink)
The key idea of the interventionist account of causation is that a variable A causes a variable B if and only if B would change if A were manipulated in the appropriate way. This paper raises two problems for Woodward's (2003) version of interventionism. The first is that the conditions it imposes are not sufficient for causation, because these conditions are also satisfied by non-causal relations of nomological dependence expressed in association laws. Such laws ground a relation of mutual (...) manipulability that is incompatible with the asymmetry of causation. Several ways of defending the interventionist account are examined and found unsatisfying. The second problem is that it often seems to be impossible, in a model that contains variables linked by an association law, to satisfy the conditions imposed on interventions on such variables. Various ways to solve this second problem, most importantly the analysis of manipulability in terms of difference making, are examined. Given that none solves the problem, I conclude that the interventionist conditions are neither sufficient nor necessary for causation. It is suggested that they provide an analysis of nomological dependence, which may be supplemented with the notion of a causal process to yield an analysis of causation. (shrink)
A two boundary quantum mechanics without time ordered causal structure is advocated as consistent theory. The apparent causal structure of usual “near future” macroscopic phenomena is attributed to a cosmological asymmetry and to rules governing the transition between microscopic to macroscopic observations. Our interest is a heuristic understanding of the resulting macroscopic physics.
In this paper I demonstrate that the causal structure of flagpole-like systems can be determined by application of causal graph theory. Additional information about the ordering of events in time or about how parameters of the systems of interest can be manipulated is not needed.
Concepts employed in folk descriptions of the world often turn out to be more perspectival than they seem at first sight, involving previously unrecognised sensitivity to the viewpoint or 'situation' of the user of the concept in question. Often, it is progress in science that reveals such perspectivity, and the deciding factor is that we realise that other creatures would apply the same concepts with different extension, in virtue of differences between their circumstances and ours. In this paper I argue (...) that causal concepts are perspectival in this way, and describe the 'situation' on which they depend in terms of an abstract characterisation of the viewpoint of a deliberating agent. I argue that this approach makes better sense than rivals of the apparent asymmetry and temporal orientation of the causal relation. (shrink)
The psychology of reasoning is increasingly considering agents' values and preferences, achieving greater integration with judgment and decision making, social cognition, and moral reasoning. Some of this research investigates utility conditionals, ‘‘if p then q’’ statements where the realization of p or q or both is valued by some agents. Various approaches to utility conditionals share the assumption that reasoners make inferences from utility conditionals based on the comparison between the utility of p and the expected utility of q. This (...) article introduces a new parameter in this analysis, the underlying causal structure of the conditional. Four experiments showed that causal structure moderated utility-informed conditional reasoning. These inferences were strongly invited when the underlying structure of the conditional was causal, and significantly less so when the underlying structure of the conditional was diagnostic. This asymmetry was only observed for conditionals in which the utility of q was clear, and disappeared when the utility of q was unclear. Thus, an adequate account of utility-informed inferences conditional reasoning requires three components: utility, probability, and causal structure. (shrink)
I attempt a reconstruction of Kant's version of the causal theory of time that makes it appear coherent. Two problems are at issue. The first concerns Kant's reference to reciprocal causal influence for characterizing simultaneity. This approach is criticized by pointing out that Kant's procedure involves simultaneous counterdirected processes-which seems to run into circularity. The problem can be defused by drawing on instantaneous processes such as the propagation of gravitation in Newtonian mechanics. Another charge of circularity against Kant's (...)causal theory was leveled by Schopenhauer. His objection was that Kant's approach is invalidated by the failure to deliver non-temporal criteria for distinguishing between causes and effects. I try to show that the modern causal account has made important progress toward a successful resolution of this difficulty. The fork asymmetry, as based on Reichenbach's principle of the common cause, provides a means for the distinction between cause and effect that is not based on temporal order (if some preconditions are realized). (shrink)
Temporal analyses of causal directionality fail if causes needn't precede their effects. Certain well-known difficulties with alternative (non-temporal) analyses have, in recent accounts, been avoided by attending more carefully to the formal features of relations typically figuring in philosophical discussions of causation. I discuss here a representative of such accounts, offered by David Sanford, according to which a correct analysis of causal priority must issue from viewing the condition relation as nonsymmetrical. The theory is shown first to be (...) an implicitly counterfactual treatment at its base: this provides for an explicit reformulation of several key notions in the theory. An argument is then presented, independent of these modal considerations, for the conclusion that causal priority is possible only given certain implausible assumptions about the asymmetric character of causal laws which, I claim, are not met. The best objection to this argument is shown to fail on several counts, partly in light of the counterfactual results offered earlier. It is concluded that, if laws are symmetric, analyses of the sort discussed must look elsewhere for the source of causal priority; but if laws are not symmetric, resting causal priority so heavily on nomological asymmetry is no analysis at all. (shrink)
In this paper I explore the relationship between the “Humean” regularity view of causation, the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect, and the asymmetry of causation—the principle that if an event e1 causes e2, then it is false that e2 causes e1. I argue that the regularity view, in combination with the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect, is inconsistent with the asymmetry of causation, and that the inconsistency (...) can be removed by a modification of the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect that captures what is plausible in that view. I defend Hume, then, against the objection that he cannot accommodate a cause as being a necessary condition of its effect without absurdly denying the asymmetry of causation. This is only a limited defense, though, for I do not address the issue on which the tenability of the regularity view ultimately depends: viz., whether it can distinguish between causal laws and accidental generalizations without appealing to natural necessity. (shrink)