This paper articulates an account of causation as a collection of information-theoretic relationships between patterns instantiated in the causal nexus. I draw on Dennett’s account of real patterns to characterize potential causal relata as patterns with specific identification criteria and noise tolerance levels, and actual causal relata as those patterns instantiated at some spatiotemporal location in the rich causal nexus as originally developed by Salmon. The rich causal nexus serves the role of ‘pixels’ in the Dennettian pattern ontology. I (...) develop a representation framework using phase space to precisely characterize causal relata, including their degree(s) of counterfactual robustness, their causal profiles, causal connectivity, and to identify their privileged grain size or level. By doing so, I show how the philosophical notion of causation can be rendered in a format that is amenable for direct application of mathematical techniques from information theory such that the resulting informational measures are causal informational measures. This account provides a metaphysics of causation that supports interventionist semantics and causal modelling and discovery techniques. (shrink)
My aim is twofold: first, to root out the metaphysical assumptions that generate the problem of mental causation and to show that they preclude its solution; second, to dissolve the problem of mental causation by motivating rejection of one of the metaphysical assumptions that give rise to it. There are three features of this metaphysical background picture that are important for our purposes. The first concerns the nature of reality: all reality depends on physical reality, where physical reality (...) consists of a network of events.1 The second concerns the nature of causation, and the third concerns the conception of behavior. I try to vindicate a robust idea of mental causation. (shrink)
Michael Tooley presents a major new philosophical theory of the nature of time, offering a powerful alternative to the traditional "tensed" and recent "tenseless" accounts of time. He argues for a dynamic conception of the universe, in which past, present, and future are not merely subjective features of experience. He claims that the past and the present are real, while the future is not. Tooley's approach accounts for time in terms of causation. He therefore claims that the key to (...) understanding the dynamic nature of the universe is to understand the nature of causation. Time, Tense, and Causation is a landmark treatment of one of the oldest and most perplexing intellectual problems, and will be fascinating reading for anyone interested in the character of time. (shrink)
Among the many philosophers who hold that causal facts1 are to be explained in terms of—or more ambitiously, shown to reduce to—facts about what happens, together with facts about the fundamental laws that govern what happens, the clear favorite is an approach that sees counterfactual dependence as the key to such explanation or reduction. The paradigm examples of causation, so advocates of this approach tell us, are examples in which events c and e— the cause and its effect— both (...) occur, but: had c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. From this starting point ideas proliferate in a vast profusion. But the remarkable disparity among these ideas should not obscure their common foundation. Neither should the diversity of opinion about the prospects for a philosophical analysis of causation obscure their importance. For even those philosophers who see these prospects as dim—perhaps because they suffer post-Quinean queasiness at the thought of any analysis of any concept of interest—can often be heard to say such things as that causal relations among events are somehow “a matter of” the patterns of counterfactual dependence to be found in them. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that causation is an essentially macroscopic phenomenon, and that mental causes are therefore capable of outcompeting their more specific physical realizers as causes of physical effects. But I also argue that any causes must be type-identical with physical properties, on pain of positing inexplicable physical conspiracies. I therefore allow macroscopic mental causation, but only when it is physically reducible.
I 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 causal asymmetry 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)
Downward causation is a widespread and problematic phenomenon. It is typically defined as the causation of lower-level effects by higher-level entities. Downward causation is widespread, as there are many examples of it across different sciences: a cell constraints what happens to its own constituents; a body regulates its own processes; two atoms, when they are appropriately related, make it the case that their own electrons are distributed in certain ways. However, downward causation is also problematic. Roughly, (...) it seems to be at odds with specific scientific and/or epistemological desiderata: first and foremost, that everything can be reduced (one day or another) to the fundamental, micro-physical constituents and goings-on of the universe, so as to provide a unified explanation of everything and a unification of all the sciences " from the bottom ". Indeed, downward causation (if it is an irreducible phenomenon) introduces special causings not only at the higher levels, but also at the lower ones: if, in principle, we cannot fully understand what happens to the electrons without paying attention to the atoms (at the higher level) and we cannot fully understand what happens to the atoms by only paying attention to the electrons (at the lower level), there is no fully lower-level explanation for both higher-level and lower-level goings-on. In this introduction, we shall try to describe the prospects for downward causation in metaphysics and the philosophy of science. After having delved into the connections between downward causation, emergence and levels (§1), we shall discuss the irreducibility of downward causation (§2). We shall then briefly consider how specific metaphysical and epistemological assumptions bear on our understanding of downward causation and of its possibility (§3) and describe some views according to which downward causation is actually non-causal (or it is a special causal relation) (§4). We shall also mention some problems for the connection between downward causation and mental causation (§5) and some scientific examples of downward causation (§6). Finally, we shall summarize the contents of the contributions in this book (§7). (shrink)
How are causal judgements such as 'The ice on the road caused the traffic accident' connected with counterfactual judgements such as 'If there had not been any ice on the road, the traffic accident would not have happened'? This volume throws new light on this question by uniting, for the first time, psychological and philosophical approaches to causation and counterfactuals. Traditionally, philosophers have primarily been interested in connections between causal and counterfactual claims on the level of meaning or truth-conditions. (...) More recently, however, they have also increasingly turned their attention to psychological connections between causal and counterfactual understanding or reasoning. At the same time, there has been a surge in interest in empirical work on causal and counterfactual cognition amongst developmental, cognitive, and social psychologists--much of it inspired by work in philosophy. In this volume, twelve original contributions from leading philosophers and psychologists explore in detail what bearing empirical findings might have on philosophical concerns about counterfactuals and causation, and how, in turn, work in philosophy might help clarify the issues at stake in empirical work on the cognitive underpinnings of, and relationships between, causal and counterfactual thought. (shrink)
Kim has argued that in the layered model of reality shared by nonreductive physicalism and by emergentism, the assumed dependence of the mental level on the physical level leaves no room for downward causation. In his analysis Kim assumes that causal relata are events, conceived of as exemplifications of properties by particulars at a certain time. But if causal relata are conceived of in different ways and causation is appropriately understood, one can find room in the layered model (...) for downward causation with different degrees of strength. A mild form of downward causation somehow arises from the identification of causal relata with tropes. A stronger form comes from an appeal to generic events as causal relata. Finally, an even stronger form emerges from causal relata understood as free exercisings of powers to will. (shrink)
My primary aim is to defend a nonreductive solution to the problem of action. I argue that when you are performing an overt bodily action, you are playing an irreducible causal role in bringing about, sustaining, and controlling the movements of your body, a causal role best understood as an instance of agent causation. Thus, the solution that I defend employs a notion of agent causation, though emphatically not in defence of an account of free will, as most (...) theories of agent causation are. Rather, I argue that the notion of agent causation introduced here best explains how it is that you are making your body move during an action, thereby providing a satisfactory solution to the problem of action. (shrink)
It is commonplace to distinguish between propositional justification (having good reasons for believing p) and doxastic justification (believing p on the basis of those good reasons).One necessary requirement for bridging the gap between S’s merely having propositional justification that p and S’s having doxastic justification that p is that S base her belief that p on her reasons (propositional justification).A plausible suggestion for what it takes for S’s belief to be based on her reasons is that her reasons must contribute (...) causally to S’s having that belief. Though this suggestion is plausible, causal accounts of the basing relation that have been proposed have not fared well. In particular, cases involving causal deviancy and cases involving over-determination have posed serious problems for causal accounts of the basing relation. Although previous causal accounts of the basing relation seem to fall before these problems, it is possible to construct an acceptable causal account of the basing relation. That is, it is possible to construct a causal account of the basing relation that not only fits our intuitions about doxastic justification in general, but also is not susceptible to the problems posed by causal deviancy and causal over-determination. The interventionist account of causation provides the tools for constructing such an account. My aim is to make use of the insights of the interventionist account of causation to develop and defend an adequate causal account of the basing relation. (shrink)
Between 1653 and 1655 Margaret Cavendish makes a radical transition in her theory of matter, rejecting her earlier atomism in favour of an infinitely-extended and infinitely-divisible material plenum, with matter being ubiquitously self-moving, sensing, and rational. It is unclear, however, if Cavendish can actually dispense of atomism. One of her arguments against atomism, for example, depends upon the created world being harmonious and orderly, a premise Cavendish herself repeatedly undermines by noting nature’s many disorders. I argue that her supposed difficulties (...) with atomism expose a deeper tension in her work between two fundamental metaphysical commitments each of which has substantial philosophical support: her monist theory of the material world (which maintains that there exists just one natural substance which is the single principal cause) and her occasional theory of causation (which requires multiple finite principal causes in nature -- causes that might be considered individual substances). Her monism undermines atomism while her theory of occasional cause seems to rest on a conception of nature that would be especially friendly to atomism. I argue further that we can solve this tension within a Cavendishian framework in such a way as to preserve her theory of causation and her monism, but that this solution depends upon our taking her monism in a particular (and weak) form. I finally note that we can best make sense of her unique and interesting form of monism by acknowledging her social-political motivations in addition to her motivations in natural philosophy. (shrink)
Structural equations have become increasingly popular in recent years as tools for understanding causation. But standard structural equations approaches to causation face deep problems. The most philosophically interesting of these consists in their failure to incorporate a distinction between default states of an object or system, and deviations therefrom. Exploring this problem, and how to fix it, helps to illuminate the central role this distinction plays in our causal thinking.
Proponents of grounding often describe the notion as "metaphysical causation" involving determination and production relations similar to causation. This paper argues that the similarities between grounding and causation are merely superficial. I show that there are several sorts of causation that have no analogue in grounding; that the type of "bringing into existence" that both involve is extremely different; and that the synchronicity of ground and the diachronicity of causation make them too different to be (...) explanatorily intertwined. (shrink)
Tooley here sets out and defends realist accounts of traditional empiricist explanations of causation and laws of nature, arguing that since reductionist accounts of causation are exposed to decisive objections, empiricists must break with that tradition.
In a recent paper I argued that agent causation theorists should be compatibilists. In this paper, I argue that compatibilists should be agent causation theorists. I consider six of the main problems facing compatibilism: (i) the powerful intuition that one can't be responsible for actions that were somehow determined before one was born; (ii) Peter van Inwagen's modal argument, involving the inference rule (β); (iii) the objection to compatibilism that is based on claiming that the ability to do (...) otherwise is a necessary condition for freedom; (iv) "manipulation arguments," involving cases in which an agent is manipulated by some powerful being into doing something that he or she would not normally do, but in such a way that the compatibilist's favorite conditions for a free action are satisfied; (v) the problem of constitutive luck; and (vi) the claim that it is not fair to blame someone for an action if that person was determined by forces outside of his or her control to perform that action. And in the case of each of these problems, I argue that the compatibilist has a much more plausible response to that problem if she endorses the theory of agent causation than she does otherwise. (shrink)
The overdetermination problem has long been raised as a challenge to nonreductive physicalism. Nonreductive physicalists have, in various ways, tried to resolve the problem through appeal to counterfactuals. This essay does two things. First, it takes up the question whether counterfactuals can yield an appropriate notion of causal redundancy and argues for a negative answer. Second, it examines how this issue bears on the mental causation debate. In particular, it considers the argument that the overdetermination problem simply does not (...) arise on a dependency conception of causation and shows why this idea, though initially appealing, does not address the real problem. As the essay shows, the idea derives its spurious plausibility from the fact that the dependency conception cannot even make sense of our pretheoretic idea of causal redundancy. The essay concludes by briefly discussing a possible picture of mental causation that suggests itself in light of these results. (shrink)
In this paper we present a new proposal for defining actual causation, i.e., the problem of deciding if one event caused another. We do so within the popular counterfactual tradition initiated by Lewis, which is characterised by attributing a fundamental role to counterfactual dependence. Unlike the currently prominent definitions, our approach proceeds from the ground up: we start from basic principles, and construct a definition of causation that satisfies them. We define the concepts of counterfactual dependence and production, (...) and put forward principles such that dependence is an unnecessary but sufficient condition for causation, whereas production is an insufficient but necessary condition. The resulting definition of causation is a suitable compromise between dependence and production. Every principle is introduced by means of a paradigmatic example of causation. We illustrate some of the benefits of our approach with two examples that have spelled trouble for other accounts. We make all of this formally precise using structural equations, which we extend with a timing over all events. (shrink)
What is the nature of causation? How is causation linked with explanation? And can there be an adequate theory of explanation? These questions and many others are addressed in this unified and rigorous examination of the philosophical problems surrounding causation, laws and explanation. Part 1 of this book explores Hume's views on causation, theories of singular causation, and counterfactual and mechanistic approaches. Part 2 considers the regularity view of laws and laws as relations among universals, (...) as well as recent alternative approaches to laws. Part 3 examines the issues arising from deductive-nomological explanation, statistical explanation, the explanation of laws and the metaphysics of explanation. Accessible to readers of all levels, this book provides an excellent introduction to one of the most enduring problems of philosophy. (shrink)
How can mental properties bring about physical effects, as they seem to do, given that the physical realizers of the mental goings-on are already sufficient to cause these effects? This question gives rise to the problem of mental causation (MC) and its associated threats of causal overdetermination, mental causal exclusion, and mental causal irrelevance. Some (e.g., Cynthia and Graham Macdonald, and Stephen Yablo) have suggested that understanding mental-physical realization in terms of the determinable/determinate relation (henceforth, 'determination') provides the key (...) to solving the problem of MC: if mental properties are determinables of their physical realizers, then (since determinables and determinates are distinct, yet don't causally compete) all three threats may be avoided. Not everyone agrees that determination can do this good work, however. Some (e.g., Douglas Ehring, Eric Funkhauser, and Sven Walter) object that mental-physical realization can't be determination, since such realization lacks one or other characteristic feature of determination. I argue that on a proper understanding of the features of determination key to solving the problem of MC these arguments can be resisted. (shrink)
The problem of freedom and determinism has vexed philosophers for several millennia, and continues to be a topic of lively debate today. One of the proposed solutions to the problem that has received a great deal of attention is the Theory of Agent Causation. While the theory has enjoyed its share of advocates, and perhaps more than its share of critics, the theory’s advocates and critics have always agreed on one thing: the Theory of Agent Causation is an (...) incompatibilist theory. That is, both believers and nonbelievers in the theory have taken it for granted that the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is one according to which freedom and determinism are incompatible. In fact, so entrenched is this assumption that no one on either side of the debate has ever questioned it. Yet it turns out that this assumption is wrong – the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is a compatibilist one. (shrink)
We claim that if a complete philosophy of evidence-based practice is intended, then attention to the nature of causation in health science is necessary. We identify how health science currently conceptualises causation by the way it prioritises some research methods over others. We then show how the current understanding of what causation is serves to constrain scientific progress. An alternative account of causation is offered. This is one of dispositionalism. We claim that by understanding causation (...) from a dispositionalist stance, many of the processes within an evidence-based practice framework are better accounted for. Further, some of the problems associated with the health research, e.g. external validity of causal findings, dissolve. (shrink)
Hume thought that if you believed in powers, you believed in necessary connections in nature. He was then able to argue that there were none such because anything could follow anything else. But Hume wrong-footed his opponents. A power does not necessitate its manifestations: rather, it disposes towards them in a way that is less than necessary but more than purely contingent. -/- In this paper a dispositional theory of causation is offered. Causes dispose towards their effects and often (...) produce them. But a set of causes, even though they may succeed in producing an effect, cannot necessitate it since the effect could have been counteracted by some additional power. This would require a separation of our concepts of causal production and causal necessitation. The most conspicuous cases of causation are those where powers accumulate and pass a requisite threshold for an effect to occur. -/- We develop a model for representing powers as constituent vectors within an n-dimensional quality space, where composition of causes appears as vector addition. Even our resultant vector, however, has to be understood as having dispositional force only. This model throws new light on causal modality and cases of prevention, causation by absence and probabilistic causation. (shrink)
One philosophical approach to causation sees counterfactual dependence as the key to the explanation of causal facts: for example, events c (the cause) and e (the effect) both occur, but had c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. The counterfactual analysis of causation became a focus of philosophical debate after the 1973 publication of the late David Lewis's groundbreaking paper, "Causation," which argues against the previously accepted "regularity" analysis and in favor of what he called (...) the "promising alternative" of the counterfactual analysis. Thirty years after Lewis's paper, this book brings together some of the most important recent work connecting--or, in some cases, disputing the connection between--counterfactuals and causation, including the complete version of Lewis's Whitehead lectures, "Causation as Influence," a major reworking of his original paper. Also included is a more recent essay by Lewis, "Void and Object," on causation by omission. Several of the essays first appeared in a special issue of the Journal of Philosophy, but most, including the unabridged version of "Causation as Influence," are published for the first time or in updated forms.Other topics considered include the "trumping" of one event over another in determining causation; de facto dependence; challenges to the transitivity of causation; the possibility that entities other than events are the fundamental causal relata; the distinction between dependence and production in accounts of causation; the distinction between causation and causal explanation; the context-dependence of causation; probabilistic analyses of causation; and a singularist theory of causation. (shrink)
It is widely supposed that David Hume invented and espoused the "regularity" theory of causation, holding that causal relations are nothing but a matter of one type of thing being regularly followed by another. It is also widely supposed that he was not only right about this, but that it was one of his greatest contributions to philosophy. Strawson here argues that the regularity theory of causation is indefensible, and that Hume never adopted it in any case. Strawson (...) maintains that Hume did not claim that causation in the natural world is just a matter of regular succession, that such a dogmatic metaphysical claim about the nature of reality would have been utterly contrary to his fundamental philosophical principles, and that he rightly took it for granted that there was more to causation than regularity of succession, claiming only that regularity of succession was all that we could ever know of causation. (shrink)
Argument for Epiphenomenalism [I]: (A) Mental event-tokens are identical with physical event-tokens. (B) The causal powers of a physical event are determined only by its physical properties; and (C) mental properties are not reducible to physical properties.
Bertrand Russell famously argued that causation is not part of the fundamental physical description of the world, describing the notion of cause as “a relic of a bygone age”. This paper assesses one of Russell’s arguments for this conclusion: the ‘Directionality Argument’, which holds that the time symmetry of fundamental physics is inconsistent with the time asymmetry of causation. We claim that the coherence and success of the Directionality Argument crucially depends on the proper interpretation of the ‘ (...) time symmetry’ of fundamental physics as it appears in the argument, and offer two alternative interpretations. We argue that: if ‘ time symmetry’ is understood as the time -reversal invariance of physical theories, then the crucial premise of the Directionality Argument should be rejected; and if ‘ time symmetry’ is understood as the temporally bidirectional nomic dependence relations of physical laws, then the crucial premise of the Directionality Argument is far more plausible. We defend the second reading as continuous with Russell’s writings, and consider the consequences of the bidirectionality of nomic dependence relations in physics for the metaphysics of causation. (shrink)
What would it be for a process to happen backwards in time? Would such a process involve different causal relations? It is common to understand the time reversal invariance of a physical theory in causal terms, such that whatever can happen forwards in time (according to the theory) can also happen backwards in time. This has led many to hold that time reversal symmetry is incompatible with the asymmetry of cause and effect. This paper critiques the causal reading of time (...) reversal. First, I argue that the causal reading requires time-reversal-related models to be understood as representing distinct possible worlds, and on such a reading causal relations are compatible with time reversal symmetry. Second, I argue that the former approach does however raise serious sceptical problems regarding the causal relations of paradigm causal processes, and as a consequence there are overwhelming reasons to prefer a non-causal reading of time reversal whereby time reversal leaves causal relations invariant. On the non-causal reading, time reversal symmetry poses no significant conceptual nor epistemological problems for causation. -/- . (shrink)
How do we determine whether some candidate causal factor is an actual cause of some particular outcome? Many philosophers have wanted a view of actual causation which fits with folk intuitions of actual causation and those who wish to depart from folk intuitions of actual causation are often charged with the task of providing a plausible account of just how and where the folk have gone wrong. In this paper, I provide a range of empirical evidence aimed (...) at showing just how and where the folk go wrong in determining whether an actual causal relation obtains. The evidence suggests that folk intuitions of actual causation are generated by two epistemically defective processes. I situate the empirical evidence within a background discussion of debunking, arguing for a two-pronged debunking explanation of folk intuitions of actual causation. I conclude that those who wish to depart from folk intuitions of actual causation should not be compelled to square their account of actual causation with the verdicts of the folk. In the dispute over actual causation, folk intuitions deserve to be rejected. (shrink)
There have recently been a number of strong claims that normative considerations, broadly construed, influence many philosophically important folk concepts and perhaps are even a constitutive component of various cognitive processes. Many such claims have been made about the influence of such factors on our folk notion of causation. In this paper, we argue that the strong claims found in the recent literature on causal cognition are overstated, as they are based on one narrow type of data about a (...) particular type of causal cognition; the extant data do not warrant any wide-ranging conclusions about the pervasiveness of normative considerations in causal cognition. Of course, almost all empirical investigations involve some manner of ampliative inference, and so we provide novel empirical results demonstrating that there are types of causal cognition that do not seem to be influenced by moral considerations. (shrink)
The development of a defensible and fecund notion of emergence has been dogged by a number of threshold issues neatly highlighted in a recent paper by Jaegwon Kim. We argue that physicalist assumptions confuse and vitiate the whole project. In particular, his contention that emergence entails supervenience is contradicted by his own argument that the ‘microstructure’ of an object belongs to the whole object, not to its constituents. And his argument against the possibility of downward causation is question-begging and (...) makes false assumptions about causal sufficiency. We argue, on the contrary, for a rejection of the deeply entrenched assumption, shared by physicalists and Cartesians alike, that what basically exists are things (entities, substances). Our best physics tells us that there are no basic particulars, only fields in process. We need an ontology which gives priority to organization, which is inherently relational. Reflection upon the fact that all biological creatures are far-from-equilibrium systems, whose very persistence depend upon their interactions with their environment, reveals incoherence in the notion of an ‘emergence base’. (shrink)
I argue that causation is a contrastive relation: c-rather-than-C* causes e-rather-than-E*, where C* and E* are contrast classes associated respectively with actual events c and e. I explain why this is an improvement on the traditional binary view, and develop a detailed definition. It turns out that causation is only well defined in ‘uniform’ cases, where either all or none of the members of C* are related appropriately to members of E*.
Weak emergence has been offered as an explication of the ubiquitous notion of emergence used in complexity science (Bedau 1997). After outlining the problem of emergence and comparing weak emergence with the two other main objectivist approaches to emergence, this paper explains a version of weak emergence and illustrates it with cellular automata. Then it explains the sort of downward causation and explanatory autonomy involved in weak emergence.
Empirical evidence, it has often been argued, undermines our commonsense assumptions concerning the efficacy of conscious intentions. One of the most influential advocates of this challenge has been Daniel Wegner, who has presented an impressive amount of evidence in support of a model of "apparent mental causation". According to Wegner, this model provides the best explanation of numerous curious and pathological cases of behavior. Further, it seems that Benjamin Libet's classic experiment on the initiation of action and the empirical (...) evidence concerning the confabulation of reason explanations provide further support for this view. In response, I will propose an alternative model of "real mental causation" that can accommodate the empirical evidence just as well as Wegner's. Further, we will see that there is plenty of evidence in support of the assumption that intentions are causally efficacious. This will provide us with ample reason to endorse the model of real mental causation. (shrink)
Ehring shows the inadequacy of received theories of causation, and, introducing conceptual devices of his own, provides a wholly new account of causation as the persistence over time of individual properties, or "tropes.".
The 'completeness of physics' is the key premise in the causal argument for physicalism. Standard formulations of it fail to rule out emergent downwards causation. I argue that it must do this if it is tare in a valid causal argument for physicalism. Drawing on the notion of conferring causal power, I formulate a suitable principle, 'strong completeness'. I investigate the metaphysical implications of distinguishing this principle from emergent downwards causation, and I argue that categoricalist accounts of properties (...) are better equipped to sustain the distinction than dispositional essentialist accounts. Finally, I argue that the additional evidence needed for strong completeness renders the causal argument otiose for any properties amenable to scientific reduction. (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)
The Exclusion Problem for mental causation suggests that there is a tension between the claim that the mental causes physical effects, and the claim that the mental does not overdetermine its physical effects. In response, Karen Bennett puts forward an extra necessary condition for overdetermination : if one candidate cause were to occur but the other were not to occur, the effect would still occur. She thus denies one of the assumptions of EP, the assumption that if an effect (...) has two sufficient causes, it is overdetermined. If sound, her argument does two things: it solves EP, and it shows how to use counterfactuals in order to make the notion of overdetermination precise. However, the argument is not sound. (shrink)
to counterintuitive results. Suppose a mental event, m1, causes another mental event, m2. Unless the mental and the physical are completely independent, there will be a physical event in your brain or your body or the physical world as a whole that underlies this event. The mental event occurs at least partly in virtue of the physical event’s occurring. And the same goes for m2  and p2. Let’s not worry about what exactly “underlying” or “in virtue of” means here. (...) Here’s the picture. m1 -----> m2 | | p1 -----> p2 The horizontal arrows represent causation, and the vertical lines represent underlying, whatever that may be. There’s some reason to think that the only way m1 can bring about m2 is by bringing about p2. You can’t convince someone of something through mental telepathy. You need to interact with the physical world, perhaps by saying something and so making some noise, or by pointing and getting them to turn their head and see. What goes for the case of two people goes for the case of one person as well. Superstition aside, there is no purely mental energy that floats free of the merely physical workings of the brain. If m1 brings about m2 by bringing about p2, then m1 brings about p2. This is downward causation. But wait. Doesn’t p1 bring about p2? Isn’t that what the bottom arrow represents? Maybe m1 and p1 work together to bring about p2. There are little holes in the physical causal structure that need to be filled by mental events. You don’t need a sweeping metaphysical thesis about the causal closure of the physical to find this implausible. Maybe p2 is overdetermined. (shrink)
Many philosophical theories of causation are egalitarian, rejecting a distinction between causes and mere causal conditions. We sought to determine the extent to which people's causal judgments discriminate, selecting as causes counternormal events—those that violate norms of some kind—while rejecting non-violators. We found significant selectivity of this sort. Moreover, priming that encouraged more egalitarian judgments had little effect on subjects. We also found that omissions are as likely as actions to be judged as causes, and that counternormative selectivity appears (...) to apply equally to actions and omissions. (shrink)
Non-Cartesian substance dualism maintains that persons or selves are distinct from their organic physical bodies and any parts of those bodies. It regards persons as ‘substances’ in their own right, but does not maintain that persons are necessarily separable from their bodies, in the sense of being capable of disembodied existence. In this paper, it is urged that NCSD is better equipped than either Cartesian dualism or standard forms of physicalism to explain the possibility of mental causation. A model (...) of mental causation adopting the NCSD perspective is proposed which, it is argued, is consistent with all that is currently known about the operations of the human central nervous system, including the brain. Physicalism, by contrast, seems ill-equipped to explain the distinctively intentional or teleological character of mental causation, because it effectively reduces all such causation to ‘blind’ physical causation at a neurological level. (shrink)
Does the notion of ground, as it has recently been employed by metaphysicians, point to a single unified phenomenon? Jonathan Schaffer holds that the phenomenon of grounding exhibits the unity characteristic of a single genus. In defense of this hypothesis, Schaffer proposes to take seriously the analogy between causation and grounding. More specifically, Schaffer argues that both grounding and causation are best approached through a single formalism, viz., that utilized by structural equation models of causation. In this (...) paper, I present several concerns which suggest that the structural equation model does not transfer as smoothly from the case of causation to the case of grounding as Schaffer would have us believe. If it can in fact be shown that significant differences surface in how the formalism in question applies to the two types of phenomena in question, Schaffer’s attempt at establishing an analogy between grounding and causation has thereby been weakened and, as a result, the application of the Unity Hypothesis to the case of grounding once again stands in need of justification. (shrink)
We investigate whether standard counterfactual analyses of causation imply that the outcomes of space-like separated measurements on entangled particles are causally related. Although it has sometimes been claimed that standard CACs imply such a causal relation, we argue that a careful examination of David Lewis’s influential counterfactual semantics casts doubt on this. We discuss ways in which Lewis’s semantics and standard CACs might be extended to the case of space-like correlations.
Hall [(2007), Philosophical Studies, 132, 109–136] offers a critique of structural equations accounts of actual causation, and then offers a new theory of his own. In this paper, I respond to Hall’s critique, and present some counterexamples to his new theory. These counterexamples are then diagnosed.