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:

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Causation has traditionally been understood as a relation that involves the temporal priority of the cause over the effect. But there is a problem with this that is to be found even in Hume’s perfect instance on the billiard table. Causation does not occur until the two billiard balls touch and it is over once they leave each other, which does not seem to support temporal priority. Instead, we have presented a model of causation in which it occurs when disposition partners have met. If there were a temporal gap between them meeting and acting, a regress looms. This chapter argues that causation begins as soon as the partners meet and ends either when a process has run its course or has been interrupted. In this model, cause and effect are simultaneous, where simultaneous does not entail instantaneous. The issue of temporally extended causal chains needs to be resolved as these certainly look to be cases where causes precede effects. But we argue that each link in the causal chain involves simultaneity of cause and effect and new processes are begun by the chain only when disposition partners are together.

Keywords: temporal priority; simultaneity; regress; process; causal chain; physics

Chapter.  10311 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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