This book, published in 2000, is a clear account of causation based firmly in contemporary science. Dowe discusses in a systematic way, a positive account of causation: the conserved quantities account of causal processes which he has been developing over the last ten years. The book describes causal processes and interactions in terms of conserved quantities: a causal process is the worldline of an object which possesses a conserved quantity, and a causal interaction involves the exchange of conserved quantities. Further, (...) things that are properly called cause and effect are appropriately connected by a set of causal processes and interactions. The distinction between cause and effect is explained in terms of a version of the fork theory: the direction of a certain kind of ordered pattern of events in the world. This particular version has the virtue that it allows for the possibility of backwards causation, and therefore time travel. (shrink)
This paper examines Wesley Salmon's "process" theory of causality, arguing in particular that there are four areas of inadequacy. These are that the theory is circular, that it is too vague at a crucial point, that statistical forks do not serve their intended purpose, and that Salmon has not adequately demonstrated that the theory avoids Hume's strictures about "hidden powers". A new theory is suggested, based on "conserved quantities", which fulfills Salmon's broad objectives, and which avoids the problems discussed.
There is, no doubt, a temptation to treat preventions, such as ‘the father’s grabbing the child prevented the accident’, and cases of ‘causation’ by omission, such as ‘the father’s inattention was the cause of the child’s accident’, as cases of genuine causation. I think they are not, and in this paper I defend a theory of what they are. More specifically, the counterfactual theory defended here is that a claim about prevention or ‘causation’ by omission should be understood not as (...) being directly about actual genuine causation but primarily as a counterfactual claim about genuine causation.1 The relation between actual causation and the mere possibility of causation allows my theory to explain both the difference and the similarity between the two notions (causation and prevention/omission). Further, the difference explains certain intuitions we have and the similarity justifies and explains the fact that for practical purposes we usually treat preventions and omissions as if they were genuine causation. Finally, the fact that this counterfactual theory of prevention and omission takes causation as primitive suggests that it is consistent with any theory of causation. This allows us to construct two arguments against what I will call genuinism, the view that cases of prevention and ‘causation’ by omission really are cases of genuine causation. In section II I show that genuinism does not account for the so-called intuition of difference. In section III I outline a number of problems that various theories of causation have with preventions and ‘causation’ by omission. These problems are ipso facto problems for genuinism, whereas I show in section V how the counterfactual theory solves those problems. Further, I answer a genuinist argument based on another type of intuition—the genuinist intuition—by showing why we have that intuition and how it should be handled (section VI). (shrink)
In a recent paper (1994) Wesley Salmon has replied to criticisms (e.g., Dowe 1992c, Kitcher 1989) of his (1984) theory of causality, and has offered a revised theory which, he argues, is not open to those criticisms. The key change concerns the characterization of causal processes, where Salmon has traded "the capacity for mark transmission" for "the transmission of an invariant quantity." Salmon argues against the view presented in Dowe (1992c), namely that the concept of "possession of a conserved quantity" (...) is sufficient to account for the difference between causal and pseudo processes. Here that view is defended, and important questions are raised about the notion of transmission and about gerrymandered aggregates. (shrink)
Process theories of causality seek to explicate causality as a property of individual causal processes. This paper examines the capacity of such theories to account for the asymmetry of causation. Three types of theories of asymmetry are discussed; the subjective, the temporal, and the physical, the third of these being the preferred approach. Asymmetric features of the world, namely the entropic and Kaon arrows, are considered as possible sources of causal asymmetry and a physical theory of asymmetry is subsequently developed (...) with special reference to the questions of objectivity and backwards causation. (shrink)
This idea of time travel has long given philosophers difficulties. Most recently, in his paper ‘Troubles with Time Travel’ William Grey presents a number of objections to time travel, some well known in the philosophical literature, others quite novel. In particular Grey's ‘no destinations’ and ‘double occupation’ objections I take to be original, while what I will call the ‘times paradox’ and the ‘possibility restriction argument’ are versions of well known objections. I show how each of these can be answered, (...) thereby defending the plausibility of time travel. (shrink)
Philosophers have long been fascinated by the connection between cause and effect: are 'causes' things we can experience, or are they concepts provided by our minds? The study of causation goes back to Aristotle, but resurged with David Hume and Immanuel Kant, and is now one of the most important topics in metaphysics. Most of the recent work done in this area has attempted to place causation in a deterministic, scientific, worldview. But what about the unpredictable and chancey world we (...) actually live in: can one theory of causation cover all instances of cause and effect? _Cause and Chance: Causation in an Indeterministic World _is a collection of specially written papers by world-class metaphysicians. Its focus is the problem facing the 'reductionist' approach to causation: the attempt to cover all types of causation, deterministic and indeterministic, with one basic theory. Contributors: Stephen Barker, Helen Beebee, Phil Dowe, Dorothy Edgington, Doug Ehring, Chris Hitchcock, Igal Kwart, Paul Noordhof, Murali Ramachandran and Michael Tooley. (shrink)
I argue that so-called ‘absence causation’must be treated in terms of counterfactuals about causation such as ‘had a occurred, a would have caused b’. First, I argue that some theories of causation that accept absence causation are unattractive because they undermine the idea of possible causation. And second, I argue that accepting absence causation violates a principle commonly associated with relativity.
In this paper I reconsider a standard counterexample to the chance-raising theory of singular causation. Extant versions of this theory are so different that it is difficult to formulate the core thesis that they all share, despite the guiding idea that causes raise the chance of their effects. At one extreme, ‘Humean’ theories – which can be traced to Reichenbach – say that a particular event of type C is the cause of a particular event of type E only if (...) P(E|C & K) > P(E|~C & K) where K is a set of background conditions and where the probabilities are interpreted as relative frequencies. At the other extreme, explicitly non-Humean theories take chance to be a physical, particular, local feature of the world. (shrink)
Abstract Kitcher (1989) and others have criticized Salmon's (1984) causal account of explanation on the grounds that it is epistemologically inadequate. The difficulty is that Salmon's principle of ?mark transmission? fails to achieve its intended purpose, namely to distinguish causal processes from other types of processes. This renders Salmon's account of causality epistemically inaccessible. In this paper that critique is reviewed and developed, and a modification to Salmon's theory, the ?conserved?quantity? theory (Dowe, 1992) is presented. This theory is shown to (...) avoid the epistemologicalproblem, by replacing mark transmission with the ascription of conserved quantities such as energy. The virtue of this approach is that it renders causality epistemically accessible. This constitutes a defence of the causal theory of explanation. (shrink)
In this paper I offer an 'integrating account' of singular causation, where the term 'integrating' refers to the following program for analysing causation. There are two intuitions about causation, both of which face serious counterexamples when used as the basis for an analysis of causation. The 'process' intuition, which says that causes and effects are linked by concrete processes, runs into trouble with cases of 'misconnections', where an event which serves to prevent another fails to do so on a particular (...) occasion and yet the two events are linked by causal processes. The chance raising intuition, according to which causes raise the chance of their effects, easily accounts for misconnections but faces the problem of chance lowering causes, a problem easily accounted for by the process approach. The integrating program attempts to provide an analysis of singular causation by synthesising the two insights, so as to solve both problems. In this paper I show that extant versions of the integrating program due to Eells, Lewis, and Menzies fail to account for the chance-lowering counterexample. I offer a new diagnosis of the chance lowering case, and use that as a basis for an integrating account of causation which does solve both cases. In doing so, I accept various assumptions of the integrating program, in particular that there are no other problems with these two approaches. As an example of the process account, I focus on the recent CQ theory of Wesley Salmon (1997). (shrink)
In this paper I show how the conserved quantity theory, or more generally the process theory of Wesley Salmon and myself, provides a sufficient condition in an analysis of causation. To do so I will show how it handles the problem of alleged 'misconnections'. I show what the conserved quantity theory says about such cases, and why intuitions are not to be taken as sacrosanct.
In this paper I consider two objections raised by Nick Smith (1997) to an argument against the probability of time travel given by Paul Horwich (1995, 1987). Horwich argues that time travel leads to inexplicable and improbable coincidences. I argue that one of Smith's objections fails, but that another is correct. I also consider an instructive way to defend Horwich's argument against the second of Smith's objections, but show that it too fails. I conclude that unless there is something faulty (...) in the conception of explanation implicit in Horwich's argument, time travel presents us with nothing that is inexplicable. (shrink)
In a recent paper Wesley Salmon has replied to criticisms of his theory of causality, and has offered a revised theory which, he argues, is not open to those criticisms. The key change concerns the characterization of causal processes, where Salmon has traded “the capacity for mark transmission” for “the transmission of an invariant quantity.” Salmon argues against the view presented in Dowe, namely that the concept of “possession of a conserved quantity” is sufficient to account for the difference between (...) causal and pseudo processes. Here that view is defended, and important questions are raised about the notion of transmission and about gerrymandered aggregates. (shrink)
This paper offers a defense of backwards in time causation models in quantum mechanics. Particular attention is given to Cramer's transactional account, which is shown to have the threefold virtue of solving the Bell problem, explaining the complex conjugate aspect of the quantum mechanical formalism, and explaining various quantum mysteries such as Schrödinger's cat. The question is therefore asked, why has this model not received more attention from physicists and philosophers? One objection given by physicists in assessing Cramer's theory was (...) that it is not testable. This paper seeks to answer this concern by utilizing an argument that backwards causation models entail a fork theory of causal direction. From the backwards causation model together with the fork theory one can deduce empirical predictions. Finally, the objection that this strategy is questionable because of its appeal to philosophy is deflected. (shrink)
This paper examines the Transference Theory of causation, developed originally by Aronson (1971) and Fair (1979). Three difficulties for that theory are presented: firstly, problems associated with the direction of transference and causal asymmetry; secondly, the case of persistence as causation, for example where a body's own inertia is the cause of its motion; and thirdly the problematic notion of identity through time of physical quantities such as energy or momentum. Finally, the theory is compared with the Conserved Quantity Theory (...) (Dowe 1992c), and it is shown that that account embodies the modifications that the transference theory needs to adopt. (shrink)
According to Hugh Mellor in Real Time II (1998, Ch. 12), assuming the logical independence of causal facts and the 'law of large numbers', causal loops are impossible because if they were possible they would produce inconsistent sets of frequencies. I clarify the argument, and argue that it would be preferable to abandon the relevant independence assumption in the case of causal loops.
This article raises two difficulties that certain approaches to causation have with would‐cause counterfactuals. First, there is a problem with David Lewis’s semantics of counterfactuals when we ‘suppose in’ some positive event of a certain kind. And, second, there is a problem with embedded counterfactuals. I show that causal‐modeling approaches do not have these problems. †To contact the author, please write to: Philosophy, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia; e‐mail: [email protected]
It is claimed that unacceptable constraints on initial data are imposed by certain responses to paradoxes that threaten time travel, closed timelike curves (CTCs) and other backwards causation hypotheses. In this paper I argue against the following claims: to say “contradictions are impossible so something must prevent the paradox” commits in general to constraints on initial data, that for fixed point dynamics so-called grey state solutions explain why contradictions do not arise, and the latter have been proved to avoid constraints (...) on initial data. †To contact the author, please write to: Philosophy, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia; e-mail: [email protected] (shrink)
According to Hugh Mellor in Real Time II, assuming the logical independence of causal facts and the ‘law of large numbers’, causal loops are impossible because if they were possible they would produce inconsistent sets of frequencies. I clarify the argument, and argue that it would be preferable to abandon the relevant independence assumption in the case of causal loops.
I defend the conserved quantity theory of causation against two objections: firstly, that to tie the notion of “cause” to conservation laws is impossible, circular or metaphysically counterintuitive; and secondly, that the conserved quantity theory entails an undesired notion of identity through time. My defence makes use of an important meta-philosophical distinction between empirical analysis and conceptual analysis. My claim is that the conserved quantity theory of causation must be understood primarily as an empirical, not a conceptual, analysis of causation.
In this paper I consider possible causation, specifically, would-cause counterfactuals of the form ‘had an event of kind A occurred, it would have caused an event of kind B’. I outline some difficulties for the Lewis program for understanding would-cause counterfactuals, and canvass an alternative. I then spell out a view on their significance, in relation to (i) absence causation, where claims such as ‘A’s not occurring caused B’s not occurring’ seem to make sense when understood in terms of the (...) would-cause counterfactual ‘had an event of kind A occurred, it would have caused an event of kind B’; (ii) contrastive causal explanation, where to explain why E rather than E* occurred we might appeal to the causal history of E and the counterfactual causal history of E*, an approach which appeals directly to would-cause counterfactuals ‘had an event of kind C* occurred, it would have caused an event of kind E*’; and (iii) dispositions, where the claim ‘the glass is fragile’ clearly has some connection or other with would-cause counterfactuals such as ‘were the glass to be struck, the striking would cause the glass to break’. (shrink)
David Lewis aimed to give an account of causation, and in particular, a semantics for the counterfactuals to which his account appeals, that is compatible with backwards causation and time travel. I will argue that he failed, but not for the reasons that have been offered to date, specifically by Collins, Hall and Paul and by Wasserman. This is significant not the least because Lewis’ theory of causation was the most influential theory over the last quarter of the 20th century; (...) and moreover, Lewis’ spirited defence of time travel in the 1970s has shaped philosophers’ approach to time travel to this day. (shrink)
Drawing on Earman’s definition of determinism and Lewis’ best systems account of laws, in What Makes Time Special? Craig Callender develops an account of time as ‘the strongest thing’. The characterisation of this account apparently assumes no action at a temporal distance, an assumption that also underlies Earman’s account of determinism. In this paper I show that there is a way to define determinism that allows worlds with action at a temporal distance to count as deterministic, that action at a (...) temporal distance is possible on a best systems account of laws, and hence that Callender need not make this assumption. (shrink)
For most of the contributions to this volume, the project is this: Fill out “Event X is a cause of event Y if and only if……” where the dots on the right are to be filled in by a claims formulated in terms using any of (1) descriptions of possible worlds and their relations; (2) a special predicate, “is a law;” (3) “chances;” and (4) anything else one thinks one needs. The form of analysis is roughly the same as that (...) sought in the Meno, and the methodology is likewise Socratic—proposals, examples, counterexamples, more proposals. The norms of the enterprise seem to be as follows (i) a proposal is defeated if someone can imagine a circumstance in which it would be false, or perhaps if one can imagine such a circumstance that is not obviously inconsistent with physical laws; (ii) approximately correct solutions, those which cover most but not all cases, are of no value unless they can be modified to cover all cases; (iii) no account is required of how the relations in the right hand side of a proposed analysis could be known or reliably.. (shrink)