The so-called bottoming-out problem is considered one of the most serious problems in Stuart Glennan's mechanistic theory of causality. It is usually argued that such a problem cannot be overcome with the acknowledgement of the non-causal character of fundamental phenomena. According to such a widespread view, in the mechanistic account causation must go all the way down to the bottom level; a solution to the bottoming-out problem, therefore, requires an appeal to an ancillary account of causation that covers fundamental phenomena. (...) In this paper I reconsider the arguments that led to this conclusion and criticize them. I argue that the no-causality-at-the-fundamental-level solution is in harmony with the causal anti-fundamentalism that characterizes the mechanistic theory. Moreover, contrarily to the dualistic solution put forward by Glennan, the no-causality-at-the-fundamental-level is not an ad-hoc solution.Finally, I provide the sketch for an account of the existence of an order in nature at the fundamental level that is consistent with the singularist and ontologically parsimonious spirit of the mechanistic account. (shrink)
I argue that we need to distinguish between three concepts of actual causation: total, path-changing, and contributing actual causation. I provide two lines of argument in support of this account. First, I address three thought experiments that have been troublesome for unified accounts of actual causation, and I show that my account provides a better explanation of corresponding causal intuitions. Second, I provide a functional argument: if we assume that a key purpose of causal concepts is to guide agency, we (...) are better off making a distinction between three concepts of actual causation. (shrink)
This paper introduces and defends a new principle for when a structural equation model is apt for analyzing actual causation. Any such analysis in terms of these models has two components: a recipe for reading claims of actual causation off an apt model, and an articulation of what makes a model apt. The primary focus in the literature has been on the first component. But the problem of structural isomorphs has made the second especially pressing (Hall 2007; Hitchcock 2007a). Those (...) with realist sympathies have reason to resist the standard response to this problem, which introduces a normative parameter into the metaphysics (Hall 2007; Halpern and Hitchcock 2010, 2015; Halpern 2016a; Menzies 2017; Gallow 2021). However, the only alternative solution in the literature leaves central questions unanswered (Blanchard and Schaffer 2017). I propose an independently motivated aptness requirement, Evident Mediation, that provides the missing details and resolves the structural isomorph problem without need for a normative parameter. (shrink)
This paper is an exercise in what J. L. Austin (1956-7) called "linguistic phenomenology". Its focus is on showing how the grammatical features of ordinary causal verbs, as revealed in the kinds of linguistic constructions they can figure in, can shed light on the nature of the processes that these verbs are used to describe. Specifically, drawing on the comprehensive classification of English verbs founds in Levin (1993), I divide the forms of productive causal processes into five classes, corresponding to (...) Aristotle's overarching ontological categories: there are processes that cause change in location, in state, and in quantity; and that lead to the creation and destruction of substances. These broader categories are then subdivided into other ones, corresponding to Levin classes, according to further differences in the causal processes they involve. I conclude by discussing the relevance of this argument to research in metaphysics and experimental philosophy. (shrink)
We examine Sophie Gibb’s emergent property-dualist theory of mental causation as double-prevention. Her account builds on a commitment to a version of causal realism based on a powers metaphysic. We consider three objections to her account. We show, by drawing out the implications of the ontological commitments of Gibb’s theory of mental causation, that the first two objections fail. But, we argue, owing to worries about cases where there is no double-preventive role to be played by mental properties, her account, (...) which solely affords mental properties a double-preventive role, is incomplete and vulnerable to a causal exclusion objection. We propose a friendly modification to her theory of mental causation that is consistent with her theory’s ontological commitments. Specifically, we sketch an account on which mental properties have a more pronounced causal-structuring role that is not exhausted by the role Gibb assigns them as double-preventers. The result is a novel emergentist theory of mental causation. (shrink)
Some philosophers working on the metaphysics of agency argue that if agency is understood in terms of settling the truth of some matters, then the power required for the exercise of intentional agency is an irreducible two-way power to either make it true that p or not-p. In this paper, the focus is on two-way powers in decision-making. Two problems are raised for theories of decision-making that are ontologically committed to irreducible two-way powers. First, recent accounts lack an adequate framework (...) for explaining decisions by the reasons of agents. Second, accepting ontologically irreducible two-way powers into one’s metaphysic of agency implies an ontological commitment to substance dualism. An ontologically less-costly alternative to irreducible two-way powers is offered. It is argued that a reductive account of two-way powers in terms of what George Molnar called “derivative powers” should be accepted. The reductive account can provide us with the truthmakers for talk about two-way powers. Moreover, the reductive account does not share the liabilities of accepting irreducible two-way powers. (shrink)
Consider the following claims: -/- 1. The drought caused the famine. -/- 2. Drowsy driving causes crashes. -/- 3. How much I water my plant influences how tall it grows. -/- 4. How much novocaine a patient receives affects how much pain they will feel during dental surgery. -/- The metaphysics of causation asks questions about what it takes for claims like these to be true—what kind of relation the claims are about, and in virtue of what these relations obtain.
This dissertation begins by addressing the question of when a causal model is apt for deciding questions of actual causation with respect to some target situation. I first provide relevant background about causal models, explain what makes them promising as a tool for analyzing actual causation, and motivate the need for a theory of aptness as part of such an analysis (Chapter 1). I then define what it is for a model on a given interpretation to be accurate of, that (...) is, say only true things about, some target situation. This involves a systematization of various representational principles mentioned and/or discussed throughout the literature into a method of interpretation, which I propose be taken as standard (Chapter 2). Next, I explain and address two reasons for which accuracy as I’ve defined it is insufficient for aptness. The first reason – already discussed in the literature – is the problem of structural isomorphs. In response, I propose the aptness condition of Explicit Partial Mediation (Chapter 3). The second reason – which has yet to be noticed – is the problem of the indeterminacy of accuracy. As I demonstrate, a model is accurate of a target situation only relative to a set of background possibilities – what I call a modal profile. It follows that a model represents a situation only relative to some modal profile or other. I go on to discuss the ramifications of this observation for a theory of actual causation in terms of models. I argue that the relativity be taken at face value and built into our metaphysical account of causation, resulting in a view that I call causal relativism (Chapter 4). I explore one advantage of this view in detail: that the resulting account can defend the principle of strong proportionality against several objections (Chapter 5). Finally, I apply the earlier discussion of aptness to attempts to provide a semantics of counterfactuals in terms of causal models – an interventionist semantics. I show how just as a similarity semantics relies on an opaque notion of similarity, an interventionist semantics relies on an analogous notion of aptness. The challenge of articulating aptness thus undermines the claim that an interventionist semantics avoids representational problems inherent in a similarity semantics (Chapter 6). I close with a recap and suggestions for future research (Chapter 7). -/- . (shrink)
A popular solution to the causal exclusion problem in the non-reductive physicalist camp is the trope identity solution. But this solution is haunted by the “quausation problem” which charges that the trope only confers causal powers qua physical, not qua mental. Although proponents of the trope solution have responded to the problem by denying the existence of properties of tropes, I do not find their reply satisfactory. Rather, I believe they have missed the core presupposition behind the quausation problem. I (...) will argue that the presupposition is the generalist notion of causation. Then, for the trope theorists to solve the quausation problem, they need to abandon the generalist notion and adopt the singularist notion of causation. However, making that move will lead them to a new quausation problem, rendering irreducible mental types causally irrelevant and mental causal explanations reducible. Either adopting a generalist notion or a singularist notion of causation, a quausation problem awaits the trope solution. Given this dilemma, my conclusion is that the trope identity solution cannot solve the exclusion problem in a non-reductive way. Moreover, the dilemma can be generalized, showing that token physicalism is a shaky position. (shrink)
Pearl opened the door to formally defining actual causation using causal models. His approach rests on two strategies: first, capturing the widespread intuition that X = x causes Y = y iff X = x is a Necessary Element of a Sufficient Set for Y = y, and second, showing that his definition gives intuitive answers on a wide set of problem cases. This inspired dozens of variations of his definition of actual causation, the most prominent of which are due (...) to Halpern & Pearl. Yet all of them ignore Pearl’s first strategy, and the second strategy taken by itself is unable to deliver a consensus. This paper offers a way out by going back to the first strategy: it offers six formal definitions of causal sufficiency and two interpretations of necessity. Combining the two gives twelve new definitions of actual causation. Several interesting results about these definitions and their relation to the various Halpern & Pearl definitions are presented. Afterwards the second strategy is evaluated as well. In order to maximize neutrality, the paper relies mostly on the examples and intuitions of Halpern & Pearl. One definition comes out as being superior to all others, and is therefore suggested as a new definition of actual causation. (shrink)
There is an inconsistency between the access we have to our conscious lives and the Humean thesis of causal generalism. This was first drawn attention to by John Hawthorne, whose argument withstands a number of objections. Nevertheless, it has weaknessess. The first premise must be weakened if Humeans are to be compelled to accept it, and consequently, the second premise will have to be stronger to retain validity. I shore up the case against Humeanism by providing revised premises along with (...) new defences of them. I show why this also provides a lesson for non-Humeans about the epistemology of causal relations. (shrink)
The World Health Organization has issued international instructions for certification and classification (coding) of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as cause of death. Central to these instructions is the selection of the underlying cause of death for a public health preventive purpose. This article focuses on two rules for this selection: (1) that a death due to COVID-19 should be counted independently of pre-existing conditions that are suspected of triggering a severe course of COVID-19 and (2) that COVID-19 should not be (...) considered as due to anything else. The article argues that observance of the first rule may not always lead to an optimal selection from a preventive point of view and that in the future the ascertainment of an animal source of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) would make it possible to reconceptualize ‘COVID-19‘ and create a zoonotic classification code by means of which a factor of a greater preventive value could be selected than what is currently possible. (shrink)
"A blab droid is a robot with a body shaped like a pizza box, a pair of treads, and a smiley face. Guided by an onboard video camera, it roams hotel lobbies and conference centers, asking questions in the voice of a seven-year-old. "Can you help me?" "What is the worst thing you've ever done?" "Who in the world do you love most?" People pour their hearts out in response. This droid prompts the question of what we can hope from (...) social robots. Might they provide humanlike friendship? Philosopher John Campbell doesn't think so. He argues that, while a social robot can remember the details of a person's history better than some spouses can, it cannot empathize with the human mind, because it lacks the faculty for thinking in terms of singular causation. Causation in Psychology makes the case that singular causation is essential and unique to the human species. From the point of view of practical action, knowledge of what generally causes what is often all one needs. But humans are capable of more. We have a capacity to imagine singular causation. Unlike robots and nonhuman animals, we don't have to rely on axioms about pain to know how ongoing suffering is affecting someone's ability to make decisions, for example, and this knowledge is not a derivative of general rules. The capacity to imagine singular causation, Campbell contends, is a core element of human freedom and of the ability to empathize with human thoughts and feelings"--. (shrink)
Sungho Choi has criticised Michael Strevens's counterexample to DavidLewis's final theory of "token" causation, causation as "influence." Iargue that, even if Choi's points are correct, Strevens's counterexampleremains useful in revealing a shortcoming of Lewis's theory. Thisshortcoming is that Lewis's theory does not properly account for*degrees* of causation. That is, even if Choi's points are correct,Lewis's theory does not capture an intuition we have about the*comparative* causal statuses of those events involved in Strevens'scounterexample (we might, for example, intuit that Sylvie's ball-firingis (...) *as much*/*more*/*less* a cause of the jar's shattering as/than isBruno's ball-firing). (shrink)
There is ample evidence that violations of injunctive norms impact ordinary causal attributions. This has struck some as deeply surprising, taking the ordinary concept of causation to be purely descriptive. Our explanation of the findings—the responsibility view—rejects this: we contend that the concept is in fact partly normative, being akin to concepts like responsibility and accountability. Based on this account, we predicted a very different pattern of results for causal attributions when an agent violates a statistical norm. And this pattern (...) has been borne out by the data. These predictions were based on the responsibility attributions that we would make. In this paper, I extend these previous findings, testing responsibility attributions. The results confirm the basis of our predictions, showing the same pattern of effects previously found for causal attributions for both injunctive norms and statistical norms. In fact, the results for responsibility attributions are not statistically significantly different from those previously found for causal attributions. I argue that this close correspondence lends further credence to the responsibility view over competing explanations of the impact of norms on causal attributions. (shrink)
The purpose of this research is to articulate how a theory of causation might be serviceable to a theory of sport. This article makes conceptual links between Bernard Suits’ theory of game-playing, causation, and theories of causation. It justifies theories of causation while drawing on connections between sport and counterfactuals. It articulates the value of theories of causation while emphasizing possible limitations. A singularist theory of causation is found to be more broadly serviceable with particular regard to its analysis of (...) sports. (shrink)
A cause may influence its effect via multiple paths. Paradigmatically (Hesslow ), taking birth control pills both decreases one’s risk of thrombosis by preventing pregnancy and increases it by producing a blood chemical. Building on Pearl (), I explicate the notion of a path-specific effect. Roughly, a path-specific effect of C on E via path P is the degree to which a change in C would change E were they to be transmitted only via P. Facts about such effects may (...) be gleaned from the structural equations commonly used to represent the causal relationships among variables. I contrast my analysis of the Hesslow case with those given by theorists of probabilistic causality, who mistakenly link it to issues of causal heterogeneity, token-causation and indeterminism. The reason probabilistic theories misdiagnose this case is that they pay inadequate attention to the structural relationships among variables. (shrink)
his monograph examines the metaphysical commitments of the new mechanistic philosophy, a way of thinking that has returned to center stage. It challenges a variant of reductionism with regard to higher-level phenomena, which has crystallized as a default position among these so-called New Mechanists. Furthermore, it opposes those philosophers who reject the possibility of interlevel causation. Contemporary philosophers believe that the explanation of scientific phenomena requires the discovery of relevant mechanisms. As a result, new mechanists are, in the main, concerned (...) solely with epistemological questions. But, the author argues, their most central claims rely on metaphysical assumptions. Thus, they must also take into account metaphysics, a system of thought concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world around it. This branch of philosophy does indeed matter to the empirical sciences. The chapters investigate the nature of mechanisms, their components, and the ways in which they can bring about different phenomena. In addition, the author develops a novel account of causation in terms of activities. The analysis provides the basis for many further research projects on mechanisms and their relations to, for example, the mind-body problem, realization, multiple realization, natural kinds, causation, laws of nature, counterfactuals, and scientific levels. (shrink)
What features will something have if it counts as an explanation? And will something count as an explanation if it has those features? In the second half of the 20th century, philosophers of science set for themselves the task of answering such questions, just as a priori conceptual analysis was generally falling out of favor. And as it did, most philosophers of science just moved on to more manageable questions about the varieties of explanation and discipline-specific scientific explanation. Often, such (...) shifts are sound strategies for problem-solving. But leaving fallow certain basic conceptual issues can also result in foundational debates. (shrink)
While structural equations modeling is increasingly used in philosophical theorizing about causation, it remains unclear what it takes for a particular structural equations model to be correct. To the extent that this issue has been addressed, the consensus appears to be that it takes a certain family of causal counterfactuals being true. I argue that this account faces difficulties in securing the independent manipulability of the structural determination relations represented in a correct structural equations model. I then offer an alternate (...) understanding of structural determination, and I demonstrate that this theory guarantees that structural determination relations are independently manipulable. The account provides a straightforward way of understanding hypothetical interventions, as well as a criterion for distinguishing hypothetical changes in the values of variables which constitute interventions from those which do not. It additionally affords a semantics for causal counterfactual conditionals which is able to yield a clean solution to a problem case for the standard ‘closest possible world’ semantics. (shrink)
Humans often attribute the things that happen to one or another actual cause. In this chapter, we survey some recent philosophical and psychological research on causal attribution. We pay special attention to the relation between graphical causal modeling and theories of causal attribution. We think that the study of causal attribution is one place where formal and experimental techniques nicely complement one another.
Several philosophers have embraced the view that high-level events—events like Zimbabwe's monetary policy and its hyper-inflation—are causally related if their corresponding low-level, fundamental physical events are causally related. I dub the view which denies this without denying that high-level events are ever causally related causal emergentism. Several extant philosophical theories of causality entail causal emergentism, while others are inconsistent with the thesis. I illustrate this with David Lewis's two theories of causation, one of which entails causal emergentism, the other of (...) which entails its negation. I then argue for causal emergentism on the grounds that it provides the only adequate means of squaring the apparent plenitude of causal relations between low-level events with the apparent scarcity of causal relations between high-level events. This tension between the apparent abundance of low-level causation and the apparent scarcity of high-level causation has been noted before. However, it has been thought that various theses about the semantics or the pragmatics of causal claims could be used to ameliorate the tension without going in for causal emergentism. I argue that none of the suggested semantic or pragmatic strategies meet with success, and recommend emergentist theories of causality in their stead. As Lewis's 1973 account illustrates, causal emergentism is consistent with the thesis that all facts reduce to microphysical facts. (shrink)
Unlike any other monograph on legal liability, Michael S. Moore’s book CAUSATION AND RESPONSIBILITY contains a well-informed and in-depth discussion of the metaphysics of causation. Moore does not share the widespread view that legal scholars should not enter into metaphysical debates about causation. He shows respect for the subtleties of philosophical debates on causal relata, identity conditions for events, the ontological distinctions between events, states of affairs, facts and tropes, and the counterfactual analysis of event causation, and he considers all (...) these issues relevant to law. In this contribution, I defend an amended version of the COUNTERFACTUAL theory of event causation both against Moore’s criticism and against some traits of Lewis’s version of the theory. On a number of counts, I simply defend Lewis against Moore’s misdirected criticism. Moore’s unreasonable demand that all the commonplaces about causation have to FOLLOW from the counterfactual analysis rests on his mistaken claim that the counterfactual theory IDENTIFIES causation with counterfactual dependence. In other respects, I part company with Lewis in order to highlight some underrated strengths of the counterfactual approach. The common denominator of my revisions is that they make the counterfactual theory unambiguously singularist. The suggested revisions comprise: performing the counterfactual analysis with Davidsonian rather than with Lewisian events, taking seriously the ex post-character of singular causal statements, making explicit the indexical ceteris paribus clause that fixes the actual circumstances of the causing event, abandoning the alleged transitivity of causation, and, last but not least, doing everything in the correct order. The correct order is to start with bedrock intuitions about the nature of causality rather than with a general possible world semantics, and then to turn these intuitions into constraints for the class of counterfactuals that a counterfactual analysis of causation has to consider. (shrink)
Hall has recently argued that there are two concepts of causality, picking out two different kinds of causal relation. McGrath, and Hitchcock and Knobe, have recently argued that the facts about causality depend on what counts as a “default” or “normal” state, or even on the moral facts. In the light of these claims you might be tempted to agree with Skyrms that causal relations constitute, metaphysically speaking, an “amiable jumble”, or with Cartwright that ‘causation’, though a single word, encompasses (...) many different kinds of things. This paper argues, drawing on the author’s recent work on explanation, that the evidence adduced in support of causal pluralism can be accommodated easily by a unified theory of causality—a theory according to which all singular causal claims concern the same fundamental causal network. (shrink)
If counterfactual dependence is sufficient for causation and if omissions can be causes, then all events have many more causes than common sense tends to recognize. This problem is standardly addressed by appeal to pragmatics. However, Carolina Sartorio  has recently raised what I shall argue is a more interesting problem concerning omissions for counterfactual theories of causation—more interesting because it demands a more subtle pragmatic solution. I discuss the relationship between the idea that causes are proportional to their effects, (...) the idea that causation is contrastive, and the question of the dimensions along which causal explanations should be evaluated with respect to one another. (shrink)
When is a cause of a cause of an effect also a cause of that effect? The right answer is either Sometimes or Always . In favour of Always , transitivity is considered by some to be necessary for distinguishing causes from redundant non-causal events. Moreover transitivity may be motivated by an interest in an unselective notion of causation, untroubled by principles of invidious discrimination. And causal relations appear to add up like transitive relations, so that the obtaining of the (...) overarching relation is not independent of the obtaining of the intermediaries. On the other hand, in favour of Sometimes , often we seem not to treat events that are very spatiotemporally remote from an effect as its causes, even when connected to the effect in question by a chain of counterfactual or chance-raising dependence. Moreover cases of double prevention provide counterexamples to causal transitivity even over short chains. According to the argument of this paper, causation is non-transitive. Transitizing causation provides no viable account of causal redundancy. An unselective approach to causation may motivate resisting the distance counterexamples to transitivity, but it does not help with double prevention, and even makes it more intractable. The strongest point in favour of transitivity is the adding up of causal relations, and this is the point that extant non-transitizing analyses have not adequately addressed. I propose a necessary condition on causation that explains the adding up phenomenon. In doing so it also provides a unifying explanation of distance and double prevention counterexamples to transitivity. (shrink)
This article describes research pursued by members of the McDonnell Collaborative on Causal Learning. A number of members independently converged on a similar idea: one of the central functions served by claims of actual causation is to highlight patterns of dependence that are highly portable into novel contexts. I describe in detail how this idea emerged in my own work and also in that of the psychologist Tania Lombrozo. In addition, I use the occasion to reflect on the nature of (...) interdisciplinary collaboration in general and on the interaction between philosophy and psychology in particular. (shrink)
There is no doubt that spatial relations aid us in pairing up causes and effects. But when we consider the possibility of qualitatively indiscernible things, it might seem that spatial relations are more than a mere aid – they might seem positively required. The belief that spatial relations are required for causal relations is behind an important objection to Cartesian Dualism, the pairing problem. I argue that the Cartesian can answer this objection by appeal to the possibility of primitive causal (...) relations, a possibility I defend. This topic is of importance beyond the philosophy of mind; the possibility that causal relations might sometimes hold brutely is of general metaphysical importance. I close with a discussion of what Cartesians should say about embodiment, and how that bears on issues of mental causation. (shrink)
Is singular causation best understood within a dispositionalist framework? Although a positive answer has not yet been wholly developed, different philosophers have made some positive contributions suggesting that it is. Against these suggestions, I claim that any possible account of singular causation in terms of real, irreducible, dispositions conveys unsolvable flaws in its very metaphysical foundations.
My aim in this paper is to make a case for the singularist view from the perspective of a mechanical theory of causation, and to explain what, from this perspective, causal generalizations mean, and what role they play within the mechanical theory.
The main focus of this paper is the question as to what it is for an individual to think of her environment in terms of a concept of causation, or causal concepts, in contrast to some more primitive ways in which an individual might pick out or register what are in fact causal phenomena. I show how versions of this question arise in the context of two strands of work on causation, represented by Elizabeth Anscombe and Christopher Hitchcock, respectively. I (...) then describe a central type of reasoning that, I suggest, a subject has to be able to engage in, if we are to credit her with causal concepts. I also point out that this type of reasoning turns on the idea of a physical connection between cause and effect, as articulated in recent singularist approaches of causation. (shrink)
Several prominent, contemporary theories of actual causation maintain that in order for something to count as an actual cause (in the circumstances) of some known effect, the potential cause must be a difference-maker with respect to the effect in some restricted range of circumstances. Although the theories disagree about how to restrict the range of circumstances that must be considered in deciding whether something counts as an actual cause of a known effect, the theories agree that at least some counterfactual (...) circumstances must be considered. I argue that the theories are still too permissive in the range of counterfactual circumstances they admit for consideration, and I present simple counter-examples that make use of this overpermissiveness. (shrink)
This dissertation treats of the problem of attributing the occurrence of an individual event or state to a single cause — a problem commonly understood either as a question of distinguishing the cause from the mere conditions or as a matter of singling out, from several causes, one cause, as the cause. The main purpose of the study is to clarify some basic concepts, and some criteria of ascertainment of the cause, that may be discerned in the literature on causal (...) attribution. Special attention is devoted to how the adequacy of causal attributions depends on pragmatic factors. The study begins with an analysis of J. S. Mill’s distinction in A System of Logic between a scientific and a common-parlance approach to the problem of causal attribution. Mill’s assumption that causal attribution in science always requires a universal-law subsumption is then examined in the context of a general discussion of the range of applicability of the covering-law model of explanation. Mill’s scientific and common-parlance notions of cause are compared with R. G. Collingwood’s historical (sense-I) and scientific (sense-II and -III) notions of cause. It is argued that there are purposes of inquiry for which Mill’s common-parlance approach is more relevant to causal attribution in natural science than his scientific approach. And, more generally, it is argued that although law subsumptions are necessary for the ascertainment of the causes, more is often required for explaining the effect. Samuel Gorovitz’s differentiating-factor analysis is discussed, and limitations of the model are identified. The relevance of Morton White’s abnormalistic approach to historical research is also examined. Further, a number of objectivistic approaches are discussed, and it is argued that objectivity is not attainable in causal attributions in a sense in which it always implies an improvement of our ability to attribute the occurrence of an individual event or state to a single cause. (shrink)
Theories of singular causation have a genuine problem with properties. In virtue of what property do events (or facts) cause other events? One possible answer to this question, Davidson’s, is that causal relations hold between particulars and properties play no role in the way a particular causes another. According to another, recently fashionable answer, in contrast, events cause other events in virtue of having a trope (as opposed to a property-type). Both views face serious objections. My aim in this paper (...) is to combine these two very different solutions to the problem of the properties of singular causation and to argue that this combined view can avoid objections against both of them. (shrink)
Hume argued that experience could not justify commonly held beliefs in singular causal effcacy, according to which individual or singular causes produce their effects or make their effects happen. Hume's discussion has been influential, as motivating the view that Causal reductionism (denying that causal efficacy is an irreducible feature of natural reality) requires Causal generalism (according to which causal relations are metaphysically constituted by patterns of events). Here I argue that causal reductionists---indeed, Hume himself---have previously unappreciated resources for making sense (...) of Causal singularism, associated with a relation that has been curiously underexploited in the causation debates: resemblance. The core idea I explore here is that causation may be metaphysically and epistemologically indicated by the coming-to-be of a resemblance. Comings-to-be of resemblances are epistemically available in the singular instance, even by Hume's strict lights, and, I argue, can justify (albeit fallibly) belief in the holding of singular causal relations; hence Hume's general argument for generalism fails. More to the contemporary metaphysical point, comings-to-be of resemblances provide valuable resources for existing singularist accounts: while neither changes (Ducasse) nor transfers of physical quantities (Fair, Dowe, Salmon) provide a suffciently fine-grained basis for the individuation of causes, either changes or transfers, in combination with comings-to-be of resemblances, can do so. (shrink)
Explanation is usually taken to be a relation between certain entities. The aim of this paper is to discuss what entities are suitable as explanatory relata of singular causal explanations, i.e., explanations concerning singular causality relating particular events or other appropriate entities. I outline three different positions. The purely causal approach stipulates that the same entities that are related in the singular causal relation are also linked by the explanatory relation. This position, however, has a problem to distinguish between causation (...) and explanation, two distinct relations allegedly obtaining between the same entities. The linguistic approach states that explanatory relata are linguistic entities of some sort, e.g., statements, propositions, etc. There are various versions of this position. I deal with two of them and try to show that they are unsatisfactory because they transform explanation into some other type of relation. On the first version, explanation is very close to interpretation or clarification of intension and on the second version it seems to be indistinguishable from an evidential relation or justification. I consider these transformations in understanding explanation unnecessary, and consequently reject linguistic views of explanatory relata. The most promising proposal concerning explanatory relata seems to be the mixed view, according to which propositions explain events or other fitting extra-linguistic entities. (shrink)
We propose new definitions of (causal) explanation, using structural equations to model counterfactuals. The definition is based on the notion of actual cause, as defined and motivated in a companion article. Essentially, an explanation is a fact that is not known for certain but, if found to be true, would constitute an actual cause of the fact to be explained, regardless of the agent's initial uncertainty. We show that the definition handles well a number of problematic examples from the literature.
We propose a new definition of actual causes, using structural equations to model counterfactuals. We show that the definition yields a plausible and elegant account of causation that handles well examples which have caused problems for other definitions and resolves major difficulties in the traditional account.
I distinguish between two opposing intuitions about the nature of the singular causal relation. The first stresses the nomological character of causation, while the second emphasises is seemingly local character. My question is this: is it possible to formulate an account of causation which incorporates both intuitions? Anscombe gives us reason to think that these intuitions could not be jointly met in an account of causation. Foster and Tooley's acount seems to provide a counter-instance to her claim, but this proves (...) to be a false start. I put forward an alternative suggestion which, by utilising tropes, manages to reconcile both the local and nomological character of causation. (shrink)
The absence of a necessary connection in singular causation is a key step in the Humean argument against any form of necessity in causation. I argue that Hume's defence of this step is unsuccessful, and that the step could be skipped, accepting the possibility of necessary a posteriori truths. Still this does not suffice to guarantee a necessary connection in singular causation. Necessary a posteriori truths should be backed by necessary a priori truths. Thus, a main object of this paper (...) is to argue that an a priori philosophical concept of causality involves a necessary connection between its terms. (shrink)
I want to make sense of the view that singular causation involves a metaphysical necessary connection. By this I understand, where A and B are particulars, that ifA causes B then in every possible world in which A (or an A-indiscernible) or B (or a B-indiscernible) occurs, A (or an Aindiscernible) and B (or a B-indiscernible) occur. In the singularist approach that I will favour causal facts do not supervene on laws, causal relata are best understood as tropes, causation is (...) founded on the nature of its terms, and the necessity thus involved does not entail essentialism, determinism, and other usual problems. (shrink)
The paper contains a novel realist account of causal production and the necessary connection between cause and effect. I argue that the asymmetric relation between causally connected events must be regarded as a product of a symmetric interaction between two or more entities. All the entities involved contribute to the producing, and so count as parts of the cause, and they all suffer a change, and so count as parts of the effect. Cause and effect, on this account, are two (...) different states of the very same compound substance, or system, one coming to exist out of the other. (shrink)
In recent years, there has been a philosophical cottage industry producing arguments that our concept of causation is not univocal: that there are in fact two concepts of causation, corresponding to distinct species of causal relation. Papers written in this tradition have borne titles like “Two Concepts of Cause” and “Two Concepts of Causation”. With due apologies to Charles Dickens, I hereby make my own contribution to this genre.
Können Personen im Wortsinne die Ursache von etwas sein? Wer die Frage bejaht, möge ein Akteurskausalist heißen. Ereigniskausalisten hingegen lassen als Relata der Kausalrelation allein Ereignisse zu. Manche Akteurskausalisten, allen voran Kant und Chisholm, fassen die Verursachung durch Handelnde als eine Kausalität sui generis auf, die der gewöhnlichen Ereigniskausalität gleichberechtigt zur Seite zu stellen sei. Andere Akteurskausalisten, beispielsweise Aristoteles, scheinen lediglich eine liberalere Auffassung möglicher kausaler Relata zu haben, ohne für Akteure eine besondere Verursachungsart vorzusehen. Im folgenden möchte ich die (...) Perspektive des Ereigniskausalisten einnehmen und der Frage nachgehen, wie aus dieser Perspektive dem Umstand Rechnung getragen werden kann, daß auch Handlungen mit Verursachungsvorgängen einhergehen. In Handlungssätzen ist typischerweise nicht von zwei Ereignissen die Rede. Können sie gleichwohl ereigniskausalistisch als singuläre Kausalsätze interpretiert werden? Und müßte der Ereigniskausalist nicht einen Weg finden, Handlungssätze in gewöhnliche singuläre Kausalsätze zu transformieren? * Eine überarbeitete Version dieses Beitrags findet sich G. Keil, HANDELN UND VERURSACHEN, Frankfurt am Main (Klostermann) 2000, 2. Aufl. 2015, 373-383. * . (shrink)
This paper considers Davidson's critique, in his paper 'Causal Relations' of the Millian notion of the 'whole cause' of an event. The paper attempts to show why Davidson's criticisms of Mill, taken to its logical conclusion, entails that we must give up 'the network model of causation', a model which dominates contemporary philosophy of mind (as well as many accounts of the nature of causation in general) and shapes prevailing ideas about the form of some of its most important questions.