Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Causation, Philosophy: It is difficult to locate influences that can be clearly defined as causes for concrete physical processes. The difficulty is also based on the fact that most authors of philosophy share an accepted skepticism concerning the observability of causality. (cf. D. Hume, An enquiry concerning human understanding, Oxford, 2000 und D. Hume, A treatise of human nature, Oxford 2007). See also single-case causation, causality, cause, causal explanation, best explanation, explanation, conditions, sufficiency, necessity, causal dependence, counterfactual dependence.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

John Bigelow on Causation - Dictionary of Arguments

I 276
Causation/Bigelow/Pargetter: we should understand it as a relation between events (in a broad sense).
Speech of causation/causality/Davidson/Bigelow/Pargetter. We take over from Davidson (1980)(1):
Problem: singular causal statements. E.g.
"The short circuit caused the fire."
Truth conditions: the statements can be true because the relation exists, even if it is clear that short circuits are neither sufficient nor necessary conditions for fire.
Generalization: can be true, but only if we reword the sentence.
Causal Relation/Davidson/Bigelow/Pargetter: exists, if and only iff there is a way of describing the events so that they can be brought under a general causal law.
BigelowVsDavidson: (see above) the causal relation is rather local than global.
BigelowVsDavidson: the nature of the causal relation is not derived from the existence of an underlying law.
I 277
Bigelow/Pargetter pro Davidson: however, the truth conditions of a singular causal statement require the existence of a relation (but not under a description).
Causal statements/Bigelow/Pargetter: some must be rewritten: E.g.
"The stone caused the window pane to break."
Must be rewritten to:
"That the stone touched the window pane caused the window pane to break."
"Becker's easy victory over Lendl surprised the commentators."
Must be changed:
"Becker's victory surprised ... and if it had not been easy, it would not have been surprising."
Bigelow pro Davidson: So far his theory is convincing.
Causality/causal statements/Bigelow/Pargetter: sometimes we must also make general causal statements:
For this, we need types of events or properties of events.
Causal statements: must then be counterfactual conditionals: E.g.
"If Lendl's defeat had not been so clear, it would not have been surprising."
"The antidote slowed the death of Protheros."
This seems to require causal relations between characteristics of events (e.g. lightness, slowing).
I 278
Universals: are sometimes used here. Sometimes it is about unique events, sometimes about characteristics of events.
Problem: why should the relations between such different entities be summarized? Why should they all be causal?
Solution/Bigelow/Pargetter: we must assume that they all supervene on a basic causal relation. This can not be specified in modal terms.
Causal Relation/Bigelow/Pargetter: is largely unknown to us. It is best to recognize it when it is encountered.
I 279
Our task is now to figure out what it is. This is a metaphysical, not a semantic task.
I 288
Causation/Explanation/Bigelow/Pargetter: Let's assume that we can close the gap between everyday forces and the fundamental forces.
I 289
Forces/Bigelow/Pargetter: how do we justify that we have chosen forces for the explanation?
Explanation/David Fair/FairVsBigelow/Bigelow/Pargetter: (Fair 1979)(2): he selects instead of forces energy flow ((s) energy transfer > Gerhard Vollmer).
Forces/Bigelow/Pargetter: we take them because they occur in Newton's 3rd law. For us, there are two instances of causation then, because there are two forces.
Fair: for him it is an instance of energy flow and thus a causation.
BigelowVsFair: his theory does not provide the right relations of higher levels between universals that we need.
Energy flow/energy transfer/Fair/Bigelow/Pargetter: this term requires the identification of packages of energy in time.
Energy/Cause/Effect/Fair/Bigelow/Pargetter: The energy present in the effect is numerically identical to the energy lost in the cause.
Problem/BigelowVsFair: but there is also cause, where no energy is transmitted, but only impulse. Therefore, it needs a shared access. Then the causation is hardly a unifying element in any explanation.
Problem: besides, there are cases where both energy and impulse are transmitted, and how should one choose then? The causation cannot be identified with both. ((s) also BigelowVsVollmer).
I 290
BigelowVsFair: besides, energy transmission and pulse transmission supervene on properties and relations. Therefore, according to Fair, there can be no Humean world, which coincides with a causal possible world in all properties of the 1st level. This should, however, be possible (see Chapter 5): a theory that allows this must also recognize causation as a relation of a higher level. Fair cannot do this.

1. Davidson, D. (1980). Essays on actions and and events. Oxford University Press.
2. Fair, D. (1979). Causation and the flow of energy. erkenntnis 14, pp. 219-50

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Big I
J. Bigelow, R. Pargetter
Science and Necessity Cambridge 1990

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