The Landscape of Causation: Review-essay on L.A. Paul and Ned Hall, Causation : A User’s Guide, Oxford Université Press, 2013Report as inadecuate

The Landscape of Causation: Review-essay on L.A. Paul and Ned Hall, Causation : A User’s Guide, Oxford Université Press, 2013 - Download this document for free, or read online. Document in PDF available to download.

1 IHPST - Institut d-Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques

Abstract : Paul and Ned Hall-s book makes an original and important contribution to the philosophical debate on causation. Their aim is not to construct a theory of causation but - to sketch a map - of the - landscape - p. 1 constituted by a rich set of problem cases and various theories of causation devised to account for them. Chapter 1 presents the scope and aim of the book, justifies the method of evaluating theories of causation by exploring whether they are refuted by counterexamples, and provides an overview of the rest of the book. Chapter 2 justifies the choice of problems and solutions considered in the book. Several assumptions are made from the beginning. Causation is taken to be a relation among particular events rather than types of events. A - reductionist outlook - is adopted, according to which facts about what causes what are determined by i facts about what happens and ii fundamental laws. These assumptions provide the background for a - minimal sufficiency account - of causation p. 16, which is a version of a regularity account. The other approaches that are introduced and examined in light of their capacity to cope with problem cases include the following: probabilistic accounts, transference accounts, and counterfactual accounts. Several versions of the counterfactual account get special attention: 1 Lewis- 1973 theory of chains of non-­‐ backtracking counterfactual dependence, 2 Lewis- 2000 account of causation as influence, 3 accounts of - de facto dependence - , versions of which have been put forward by Yablo 2004 and Hitchcock 2001, and finally 4 contrastivism, according to which causal relations have the form - C rather than C* causes E rather than E* -. But Paul and Hall provide more than a useful overview of the literature. They analyze the aims that the various approaches fix themselves or, in the authors- own words, the - conflicting motivations and conflicting presuppositions about the very point of providing a philosophical account of causation - p. 1. Their own conception of giving an account of causation is expressed in a list of rules. An account of causation is satisfactory if 1 it is reductive and avoids circular use of causal notions in the analysis, 2 it is metaphysically conservative and avoids the postulation of - extravagant - entities, such as negative events to account for causation by omission, 3 it is conceptually parsimonious and tries to analyze causation as directly as possible in terms of fundamental categories, 4 it applies not only to our actual world but also to other possible worlds, 5 it leaves open the possibility that some causal intuitions are wrong. Chapters 3 to 5 evaluate in rigorous detail how several approaches, the most promising ones according to Paul and Hall, cope with problem cases. Chapter 3 explores various types of - redundant causation - , such as preemption and overdetermination, which have been the focus of an important part of the literature on counterfactual approaches to causation. Chapters 4 and 5 explore causation by omission and two types of situation in which it is unclear whether causation is transitive, i.e. double prevention and switching. The last chapter, Chapter 6 contains concluding remarks.

Keywords : Causation Counterfactual Counterfactual analysis

Author: Max Kistler -



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