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A Metaphysical Theory of Causation

A Metaphysical Theory of Causation. Daniel von Wachter http://daniel.von-wachter.de. What is the philosophical problem of causation?. Is it about the concept of causation? Humeans are concerned with the concept of causation counterfactual analysis of the concept of causation

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A Metaphysical Theory of Causation

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  1. A Metaphysical Theory of Causation Daniel von Wachter http://daniel.von-wachter.de

  2. What is the philosophical problem of causation? • Is it about the concept of causation? • Humeans are concerned with the concept of causation • counterfactual analysis of the concept of causation • Can causal statements be replaced or paraphrased by some other statements? • Or is it about causation?

  3. The semantical vs the metaphysical problem • Semantical q.: Can statements of the type “A caused B” be replaced by certain other statements? • Metaphysical q.: What in reality makes causal claims true? What in reality do we refer to in causal claims? • Plan: criticise the Humean line of thought and say how it is about the semantic q;present a metaphysical theory of causation.

  4. The Humean theory of causation • Disclaimer: exegetes debate whether Hume really held this view denying causal connexions. (But cf. David Lewis) • A caused B iff A was followed by B and if events like A on all other occasions were and will be followed by events like B. • There are no causal connexions. • This theory seems false because, e.g., the falling of barometers is regularly followed by bad weather, but the falling of barometers usually does not cause bad weather. • This theory seems false because there seem to be causal connexions.

  5. The Humean line of thought • “The origin of ideas”: All our concepts are copies of sense impressions or are composed of such concepts. (HGC) • Hume’s philosophical method: for all philosophical terms we must ask “from what impression is that supposed idea derived”. • We have no sense impressions of causal connexions. We never observe anything like “power, force, energy, or necessary connexion”. (HOC) (cf. Al-Ghazali; Malebranche) • If we could discover a connexion in a cause we could foresee the effect “with certainty” and just “by reasoning”.

  6. Humean line of thought (cont) • It follows from HGC and HOC that “we have no idea of connexion or power at all, and that these words are absolutely without any meaning” • So why do we apparently have the concept of a connexion? • It arises because when we observe A-events often being followed by B-events we become accustomed to expect A-events to be followed by B-events and we being to “feel a connexion between A-events and B-events”

  7. Objection 1 contra Humeans • Hume (or Pseudo-Hume) uses the wrong method for finding the meaning of a term. • What one means with a certain expression is best discovered simply by thinking hard and by trying to spell out the thought more clearly and by considering paradigm examples. • If one is not aware of the meaning of a term one cannot even begin to look for the corresponding sense impressions.

  8. Objection 2 contra Hume • Humeans often seem to hold that insofar as the by arguing that causal talk can be replaced by talk about regularities they have defended that there are no causal connexions. • The transition from the claim that the idea of a connexion is not part of the idea of a cause to the claim that there are no causal connexions is illegitimate. • It may be that causal claims can be replaced by other claims, but that there causal connexions which make true the causal claims as well as their substitutes.

  9. Objection 3 contra Hume • The Humean method is not the right one for finding out whether there are causal connexions. • In order to find out whether there are Xs (e.g. luminupherous ether) one does not need a theory about our concept of X. • In order to find out whether there are causal connexions we have to consider • whether things are as we should expect them to be on the assumption that there are causal connexions, and • how likely it is that things would be as they are on the assumption that there are no causal connexions. • The metaphysician’s anti-semanticist creed

  10. Humeans • Humeans seem to be concerned with the concept of causation. • David Lewis seems to be concerned with the concept of causation.. • Humean theories may have some plausibility if taken as theories about the concept of causation, but not as theories of causation. • Now comes a metaphysical theory.

  11. A metaphysical consideration • Consider a universe, U, that is quite like ours but consists just of two rocks slowly moving away from each other at time t... • What will be after t, say at t2? • What could there be after t? • How is U likely to carry on after t? Are all possible ways of carrying on equally likely? • Why not? (And why can we predict successfully?) • Al-Ghazali’s (1058-1111) answer: occasionalism

  12. Tendency theory • There was at t a tendency towards there being at t2 two rocks at certain positions. • There are not only tendencies concerning a whole universe but also parts of it (states of affairs). (E.g. planets, gravity.) • What tendency there is at t depends on what is the case at t: that there are two stones, etc. • For the obtaining of a tendency certain things are relevant, others are not. A tendency is based on a state of affairs. Example: two planets, gravity.

  13. Tendency theory (cont) • By a state of affairs I mean a thing having a certain property. Referred to by specifying time, thing, and property. That apple (with all its properties, now) is a state of affairs too. • By a state of affairs I do not mean a meaning entity, proposition, etc. (What does Mellor mean by “fact”?) • By a state of affairs I mean the same as by an event. • State of affairs A at t1 was basis of tendency T towards B at t2.

  14. Tendency theory (cont) • The tendency was realized: the world carried on according to the tendency so that B occurred. The tendency led to B. • A causal process is a continuous series of states of affairs each of which is basis of a tendency towards a later one. • Of two events in the same causal process I say that they are causally connected. • Two tendencies that are towards incompatible states of affairs are conflicting. Either one overrides the other, or they form together a resulting tendency. Processes can intersect. • Total tendency.

  15. Tendencies and causation • State of affairs A(t1) caused B(t2) iff A was the basis (or a part thereof) of a tendency towards B (or a part thereof), and the tendency was realised. • Or: A caused B iff A was a constituent of a process of which B was a later constituent. • So where there is causation there are tendencies, but not every tendency gives rise to causation. “Cause” is a success-term. • I only speak about singular causation. We also say things like “Smoking causes cancer”, which is only true if some people’s smoking causes them to have cancer.

  16. Deterministic vs indeterministic • A deterministic tendency is one for which it is impossible that it is not realized unless something intervenes. • An indeterministic tendency is one for which it is possible that it is not realised even if nothing intervenes. • This diverges from the common understanding of “determinism” but yields an adequate conception of “deterministic laws”. • Causes are never (nearly) sufficient for their effects.

  17. Newtonian forces • Forces are a kind of tendencies: tendencies that concern the spatial position of something. E.g. gravity. • This gives us the link between forces and causation, and it takes into account that forces may not yield actual results.

  18. Concluding remark • The tendency theory attempts to describe the truthmakers of causal claims. • I do not claim that there is a conceptual equivalence between “A caused B” and “A was basis of a tendency that led to B”.

  19. 5. Juli 2004 • Nachtrag zum Determinismus • „Die Herausforderung der Quantenphysik“ • Evaluierungsfragebögen

  20. Laplacescher Determinismus • “An intelligence knowing all the forces acting in nature at a given instant, as well as the momentary positions of all things in the universe, would be able to comprehend in one single formula the motions of the largest bodies as well as the lightest atoms in the world, provided that its intellect were sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis; to it nothing would be uncertain, the future as well as the past would be present to its eyes.” (Laplace 1820, quoted in Earman 1986, 7)

  21. Laplacescher Determinismus • M.a.W.: Jedes Ereignis hat eine vorangehende (vollständige, “hinreichende”) Ursache • Jedes Ereignis ist Ergebnis eines nicht-zufälligen Prozesses. • Daraus folgt: kein Ereignis ist geschehen durch: • Entscheidung eines freien Handelnden • durch einen Poltergeist • durch einen Eingriff Gottes, etc.

  22. Variationen von „Determinismus“ • Zwei Arten von Definitionen • Def mit Bezug darauf, wie alle Ereignisse zustande kommen • Sind alle Ereignisse Ergebnis von (nicht-zufälligen) Prozessen? • Schließt Wunder aus • Def mit Bezug darauf, was für Tendenzen alle (physischen?) Ereignisse begründen. • Gibt es zufällige Prozesse, z.B. beim Zerfall von Atomen? • Sind also alle Theorien wie die Newtonsche Bewegungstheorie?

  23. Starker Determinismus • Every state of the world is the result of any deterministic tendency whose basis is, according to unchanging laws, an earlier state of the world. • Wäre ein Begriff von „Determinismus“, der nicht einen eingreifenden Gott ausschließt? • Was für Evidenz gibt es? Welche Form von Determinismus stützt sie? • Gibt es Argumente für den Determinismus, die auch zeigen, daß es keinen eingreifenden Gott gibt? • Alternative: Definiere „Determinismus“ so, daß nur auf dem Spiel steht, ob es indeterministische Prozesse gibt.

  24. Schwacher Determinismus • Every state of the world is, according to laws, basis of a deterministic tendency towards states of the world at every later time. • Newtonsche Systeme sind i.d.S. deterministisch. • Schließt „indeterministische“ Prozesse aus. • Ist eine These über die Naturgesetze • Schließt nicht aus: Eingreifen Gottes, Beginn von Prozessen durch Handlungen. • Vorteil: Die Verteidigung des schw.D. bedarf keiner Argumente gegen die Existenz Gottes, freien Willen, etc. • Basis Region kann eingeschränkt werden.

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