Synthese 195 (3):1211-1229 (2018)

Neil McDonnell
University of Glasgow
It is commonly assumed that causation is transitive and in this paper I aim to reconcile this widely-held assumption with apparent evidence to the contrary. I will discuss a familiar approach to certain well-known counterexamples, before introducing a more resistant sort of case of my own. I will then offer a novel solution, based on Yablo’s proportionality principle, that succeeds in even these more resistant cases. There is a catch, however. Either proportionality is a constraint on which causal claims are true, and the solution works, or it is not and causation is not transitive after all. I will argue that the first horn has unacceptable consequences and should be rejected, but that the second horn is less costly than it might initially appear.
Keywords Transitivity  Causation  Proportion  Counterfactual  Counterpart  Constraint  Pragmatic  Semantic
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1007/s11229-016-1263-1
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Counterfactuals.David Kellogg Lewis - 1973 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Blackwell.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1974 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 36 (3):602-605.
Mental Causation.Stephen Yablo - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (2):245-280.
Causation as Influence.David K. Lewis - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):182-197.

View all 31 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Metaphysics of Causation.Jonathan N. D. Schaffer - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Deviant Causation and the Law.Sara Bernstein - forthcoming - In Teresa Marques & Chiara Valentini (eds.), Collective Action, Philosophy, and the Law.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Events and Their Counterparts.Neil McDonnell - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1291-1308.
Causes of Causes.Alex Broadbent - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 158 (3):457-476.
Essays on Causation.Laurie Ann Paul - 1999 - Dissertation, Princeton University
Transitivity and the Ontology of Causation.Nicholas Unwin - 2014 - South African Journal of Philosophy 33 (1):101-111.
Contextualising Causation Part I.Julian Reiss - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (11):1066-1075.
Causation, Transitivity, and Causal Relata.David Lynn Holt - 1990 - Journal of Philosophical Research 15:263-277.
Transitivity, Torts, and Kingdom Loss.Kevin Gibson - 1993 - Journal of Philosophical Research 18:83-96.
A Probabilistic Analysis of Causation.Luke Glynn - 2011 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (2):343-392.
Counterfactuals and Counterparts: Defending a Neo-Humean Theory of Causation.Neil McDonnell - 2015 - Dissertation, Macquarie University and University of Glasgow


Added to PP index

Total views
631 ( #12,715 of 2,505,141 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
41 ( #21,536 of 2,505,141 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes