Against Necessity

Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum

in Getting Causes from Powers

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695614
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731952 | DOI:
Against Necessity

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A number of people have tried to explain powers in terms of necessity. This was indeed the basis on which Hume rejected powers. He thought they brought necessity into the world and he could find none. Many have followed him in thinking of powers this way. However, the possibilities of prevention and interference show us that there is something wrong with this. Causal powers produce but without necessitating. If we grant the possibility of additive interference in a causal process then it shows that causation would fail an antecedent strengthening test of necessity. Even if a cause succeeds in producing its effect, therefore, it cannot have done so through necessitating it. A number of objections are anticipated and rejected. The argument applies no matter how big we make the cause and automatically precluding an additive interferer is simply an avoidance of the antecedent strengthening test of necessity. This argument applies whether or not determinism is true but probabilistic causation would give a fine confirmation of the view. Instead, the vector model shows how we could have causal production without necessitation when a threshold is passed and there is enough for an effect to occur.

Keywords: necessity; production; threshold; interference; prevention; antecedent strengthening; determinism; probability

Chapter.  15712 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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