Interventionism and Causal Exclusion

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (2):303-347 (2015)
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A number of writers, myself included, have recently argued that an “interventionist” treatment of causation of the sort defended in Woodward, 2003 can be used to cast light on so-called “causal exclusion” arguments. This interventionist treatment of causal exclusion has in turn been criticized by other philosophers. This paper responds to these criticisms. It describes an interventionist framework for thinking about causal relationships when supervenience relations are present. I contend that this framework helps us to see that standard arguments for causal exclusion involve mistaken assumptions about what it is appropriate to control for or hold fixed in assessing causal claims. The framework also provides a natural way of capturing the idea that properties that supervene on but that are not identical with realizing properties can be causally efficacious



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James Woodward
University of Pittsburgh