Causal Relations

Donald Davidson

in Essays on Actions and Events

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246274
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191715198 | DOI:

Series: The Philosophical Essays of Donald Davidson (5 Volumes)

 Causal Relations

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This essay applies the methodology of Essay 6 to singular causal statements. Rejecting rival accounts that use sentences to identify causes and effects, and an intensional connective like ‘caused it to be the case that’, Davidson prefers to construe causes and effects as referred to by singular terms; consequently, the relation of causality is extensional i.e. holds (if at all) regardless of how the terms are described. He investigates a thesis commonly attributed to Hume, whereby causal relations hold in virtue of laws or generalities that subsume their relata. After making precise the logical form of sentences stating those laws, Davidson agrees that a singular causal statement entails the existence of a nomological statement, but denies that it entails any particular such statement unless it already describes the causal relata in terms of types subsumed under that law (hence, we can know a singular causal statement to be true in the absence of knowing the correlative law).

Keywords: causality; events; extensionality/intensionality; Hume; logical form; nomologicality

Chapter.  6267 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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