Causation as a secondary quality

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (2):187-203 (1993)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In this paper we defend the view that the ordinary notions of cause and effect have a direct and essential connection with our ability to intervene in the world as agents.1 This is a well known but rather unpopular philosophical approach to causation, often called the manipulability theory. In the interests of brevity and accuracy, we prefer to call it the agency theory.2 Thus the central thesis of an agency account of causation is something like this: an event A is a cause of a distinct event B just in case bringing about the occurrence of A would be an effective means by which a free agent could bring about the occurrence of B. In our view the unpopularity of the agency approach to causation may be traced to two factors. The first is a failure to appreciate certain distinctive advantages that this approach has over its various rivals. We have drawn attention to some of these advantages elsewhere, and we summarize below. However, the second and more important factor is the influence of a number of stock objections, objections that seem to have persuaded many philosophers that agency accounts face insuperable obstacles. In this paper we want to show that these objections have been vastly overrated. There are four main objections



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 83,944

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles


Added to PP

521 (#24,361)

6 months
12 (#98,315)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Citations of this work

Causes That Make a Difference.C. Kenneth Waters - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (11):551-579.
Causation and Time Reversal.Matt Farr - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):177-204.
Independence, invariance and the causal Markov condition.Daniel M. Hausman & James Woodward - 1999 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (4):521-583.

View all 143 citations / Add more citations