Macquarie University
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Counterfactuals and counterparts: defending a neo-Humean theory of causation

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posted on 2022-03-28, 12:55 authored by Neil McDonnell
Whether there exist causal relations between guns firing and people dying, between pedals pressed and cars accelerating, or between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming, is typically taken to be a mind-independent, objective, matter of fact. However, recent contributions to the literature on causation, in particular theories of contrastive causation and causal modelling, have undermined this central causal platitude by relativising causal facts to models or to interests. This thesis flies against the prevailing wind by arguing that we must pay greater attention to which elements of our causal talk vary with context and which elements track genuine features of the world around us. I will argue that once these elements are teased apart we will be in a position to better understand some of the most persistent problems in the philosophy of causation: pre-emption cases, absence causation, failures of transitivity and overdetermination. The result is a naturalist account of causation, concordant with the contextual variability we find in our ordinary causal talk, and parsimonious with respect to the theoretical entities posited.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Event modality and causal contextualism -- 3. Dare to be a doctor -- 4. On the non-occurrence of events -- 5. The privileged context -- 6. Absences, prevention and would-be causation -- 7. Transitivity and proportion -- 8. Symmetric redundant causation -- 9. ACCT, contrastivism and causal modelling -- 10. Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 155-166

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Stephan Leuenberger

Additional Supervisor 1

Peter Menzies

Additional Supervisor 2

Martin Smith


Copyright Neil McDonnell 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xi, 166 pages)

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