Backwards Causation in Social Institutions

Erkenntnis:1-19 (forthcoming)
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Whereas many philosophers take backwards causation to be impossible, the few who maintain its possibility either take it to be absent from the actual world or else confined to theoretical physics. Here, however, I argue that backwards causation is not only actual, but common, though occurring in the context of our social institutions. After juxtaposing my cases with a few others in the literature and arguing that we should take seriously the reality of causal cases in these contexts, I consider several objections. These objections involve whether the cases should be reinterpreted, whether they are properly within the institution, whether they involve necessitation or else Cambridge changes, whether and how they involve changing the past, and whether this should call us to question institutional reality. I end by suggesting that it is a virtue of our institutions that they allow backwards causation, that this is a kind of technology that they are often built to incorporate.

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Kenneth Silver
Trinity College, Dublin

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References found in this work

Grounding in the Image of Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (1):49-100.
Metaphysical Causation.Alastair Wilson - 2018 - Noûs 52 (4):723-751.
Events as Property Exemplifications.Jaegwon Kim - 1976 - In M. Brand & D. Walton (eds.), Action Theory. D. Reidel. pp. 310-326.

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