Journal Article

Against the Contrastive Account of Singular Causation

Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 63, issue 1, pages 115-143
Published in print March 2012 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axr024
Against the Contrastive Account of Singular Causation

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For at least three decades, philosophers have argued that general causation and causal explanation are contrastive in nature. When we seek a causal explanation of some particular event, we are usually interested in knowing why that event happened rather than some other specified event. And general causal claims, which state that certain event types cause certain other event types, seem to make sense only if appropriate contrasts to the types of events acting as cause and effect are specified. In recent years, philosophers have extended the contrastive theory of causation to encompass singular causation as well. In this article, I argue that this extension of the theory was a mistake. Although general causation and causal explanation may well be contrastive in nature, singular causation is not.

1Introduction

2The Contrastive Account of Singular Causation

3Against the Contrastive Account

4The Semantics of Contrastive Causal Statements

5Are Binary Causal Statements Ambiguous?

6Extensionality

7General Causation and Causal Explanation

8Conclusion

Journal Article.  13076 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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