Causation is at once familiar and mysterious. Many believe that the causal relation is not directly observable, but that we nevertheless can somehow detect its presence in the world. Common sense seems to have a firm grip on causation, and much work in the natural and social sciences relies on the idea. Yet neither common sense nor extensive philosophical debate has led us to anything like agreement on the correct analysis of the concept of causation, or an account of the metaphysical nature of the causal relation. Contemporary debates are driven by opposing motivations, conflicting intuitions, and unarticulated methodological assumptions.
Causation: A User’s Guide cuts a clear path through this confusing but vital landscape. We guide the reader through the most important philosophical treatments of causation, negotiating the terrain by taking a set of examples as landmarks. Special attention is given to counterfactual and related analyses of causation. Using a methodological principle based on the close examination of potential counterexamples, the book clarifies the central themes of the debate about causation, and covers questions about causation involving omissions or absences, preemption and other species of redundant causation, and the possibility that causation is not transitive. The book will be of value both to trained specialists and those coming to the problem of causation for the first time.
One philosophical approach to causation sees counterfactual dependence as the key to the explanation of causal facts: for example, events c (the cause) and e (the effect) both occur, but had c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. The counterfactual analysis of causation became a focus of philosophical debate after the 1973 publication of David Lewis’s groundbreaking paper, “Causation,” which argues against the previously accepted “regularity” analysis and in favor of what he called the “promising alternative” of the counterfactual analysis. This book brings together some of the most important recent work connecting—and in some cases disputing—counterfactuals and causation.
It includes the complete version of Lewis’s Whitehead lectures, “Causation as Influence,” a major reworking of his original paper. Also included is a more recent essay by Lewis, “Void and Object,” on causation by omission. Other topics considered include the “trumping” of one event over another in determining causation; de facto dependence; challenges to the transitivity of causation; the possibility that entities other than events are the fundamental causal relata; the distinction between dependence and production in accounts of causation; the distinction between causation and causal explanation; the context-dependence of causation; probabilistic analyses of causation; and a singularist theory of causation. Edited by John Collins, Ned Hall, and L. A. Paul.
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