Counterfactuals and counterparts: defending a neo-Humean theory of causation
thesisposted 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.