Philosophical Studies 178 (5):1647-1668 (2021)

As is well-known, David Lewis’ counterfactual theory of causation is subject to serious counterexamples in ‘exceptional’ cases. What has not received due attention in the literature so far is that Lewis’ theory fails to provide necessary and sufficient conditions for causation in ‘ordinary’ cases, too. In particular, the theory suffers from the ‘problem of large causes’. It is argued that this problem may be fixed by imposing a minimization constraint, whilst this solution brings along substantial costs as well. In particular, a precise formulation of minimization requires defining an ‘essential part of an event’ and/or an ‘essential subevent’. Although the possibility of such a definition is ultimately left open, some doubts are raised on whether the counterfactualists’ resources are fit for this purpose, and whether the challenge can be met without substantially departing from Lewis’ intention, which was to provide a reductive account of causation.
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-020-01505-z
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References found in this work BETA

Counterfactuals.David Kellogg Lewis - 1973 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Blackwell.
Philosophical Papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Causation.David Lewis - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.

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