Causation in the Law

Jane Stapleton

in The Oxford Handbook of Causation

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199279739
Published online January 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Causation in the Law

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  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Law



Previous accounts of ‘causation’ in the law are flawed by their failure to appreciate that causal language is used to express different information about the world. Because causal terms have been used to communicate answers to different questions, any philosophical search for a free-standing account of causation is doomed. Lawyers require precision of terminology, so they should explicitly choose just one interrogation to underlie causal usage in law. It is argued that this interrogation should be chosen to serve the wide projects of the law. In these projects the law is interested to identify when a specified factor was ‘involved’ in the existence of a particular phenomenon, where the notion of ‘involvement’ identifies a contrast between the actual world and some specified hypothetical world from which we exclude (at least) that specified factor: this contrast being that, while in the former world the phenomenon exists, in the latter it does not. (Such contrasts of necessity can be generated in three ways, all of importance to the law.)

Keywords: causal language; causation in the law; legal analysis; causal expressions; causal terminology; linguistic analysis

Article.  12516 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Philosophy of Law

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