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Mysteries of Actual Causation: It’s Complicated

Woodward, James (2022) Mysteries of Actual Causation: It’s Complicated. [Preprint]

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Abstract

This chapter explores a number of issues raised by recent formal and empirical work on actual causation. It is argued that claims about actual causation have a number of features that are different from those possessed by other sorts of causal claims such as so-called type level claims. One consequence is that claims about actual causation should not be regarded as grounds or foundations for these other sorts of causal claims. Instead actual cause claims should be thought of as answers to certain kinds of distinctive questions about causal structure but not as providing answers to the sorts of causal questions that are instead associated with other sorts of causal claims. In addition, it is not clear that there is a single unitary notion of actual causation. This chapter suggests that some actual cause claims have to do with causal selection (picking out certain causes from a larger set of causally relevant factors, as when a dropped match but not oxygen is selected as the cause of a fire). Such selection-based judgments are influenced by normality considertations. By contrast, in other cases, actual cause judgments seem less influenced by considerations related to normality and instead seem to track a distinct notion that I call actual causal contribution. The consequences of this for modeling actual cause judgments and for their empirical investigation are briefly considered.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
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Woodward, James
Keywords: actual causation, causal selection, normality, actual causal contribution, voting scenarios
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Jim Woodward
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2022 04:08
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2022 04:08
Item ID: 20841
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Psychology
Date: July 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20841

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