A Causal Analysis of Causes
On Lewis’s understanding of standard regularity theories, C is a cause of E if, roughly, given certain laws L and background facts F, C is pivotal to the occurrence of E; i.e. L, F and O(C), the fact that C occurs, jointly entail O(E), but L and F by themselves do not entail O(E). Lewis identifies three supposedly intractable problems: the problem of effects, the attendant problem of epiphenomena, and, perhaps the most perplexing, the problem of preemptive causation. These problems for regularity accounts motivate his famous counterfactual analysis of causation. Taking our lead from Davidson’s analysis of causal laws, which invokes, but leaves unanalyzed, the causal relation itself, we promote an account of causes that regularity theorists may accept and which circumvents the above problems Lewis mentions. Briefly, the key idea is that C is a cause of E if, roughly, given certain laws L and background facts F, C is pivotal to E’s being caused. What ‘being caused’ amounts to is left unanalyzed. But, we argue:
(i) this tack is open to regularity theorists and blocks the problems of effects and epiphenomena;
(ii) the problem of preemption—which the counterfactual approach never fully resolves—can be resolved with a simple modification;
(iii) our approach also fares better with apparent counterexamples to the transitivity of causation, and with mere hasteners and delayers;
(iv) finally, our strategy is open to causal realists, as well, e.g. those who take laws to specify objective, in-the-world necessitation relations.
Date / Time / Place
June 20th / 18:00 / Aula 0A