Journal Article

Physical Causation and Difference-Making

Alyssa Ney

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 4, pages 737-764
Published in print December 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online October 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Physical Causation and Difference-Making

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This paper examines the relationship between physical theories of causation and theories of difference-making. It is plausible to think that such theories are compatible with one another as they are aimed at different targets: the former, an empirical account of actual causal relations; the latter, an account that will capture the truth of most of our ordinary causal claims. The question then becomes: what is the relationship between physical causation and difference-making? Is one kind of causal fact more fundamental than the other? This paper defends causal foundationalism: the view that facts about difference-making are dependent on the obtaining of facts about physical causation. However, the paper's main goal is to clarify the structure of the debate. At the end of the paper, it is shown how settling the issue about the relationship between physical theories of causation and theories of difference-making has more than mere intrinsic interest in unifying the very different pursuits that have been undertaken in the philosophy of causation. It can help to break a stalemate that has arisen in the current debate about mental causation.

Two Pursuits in the Philosophy of Causation

Causal Foundationalism and its Rivals

Anti-foundationalism: Russell and Field

Against the Russell/Field Arguments

The Case for Foundationalism

Causing and ‘Causing’

An Application: Mental Causation

Journal Article.  12691 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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