Perceiving causation and causal singularism

Synthese 199 (5):14881-14895 (2021)
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Elizabeth Anscombe’s classic paper Causality and Determination claims that causation can be perceived. It also defends causal singularism, the idea that the causal relation is fundamentally between the particular cause and effect, and does not depend on regularities holding elsewhere in the universe. But does the former furnish an argument for the latter? The present paper analyses a special type of causal experience involving emotional reactions to present stimuli; for instance, being frightened by a spider. It argues that such experiences are strongly local, in the sense that they justify belief in a local causal relation independently of our knowledge about events elsewhere in the universe. If this analysis is correct, Humean regularity theories of causation are false; and all other non-singularist theories of causation face a difficult explanatory challenge. This means that the case for causal singularism comes out considerably strengthened.



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Victor Gijsbers
Leiden University

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