, Volume 190, Issue 14, pp 2749-2772

First online:

A Church-Fitch proof for the universality of causation

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In an attempt to improve upon Alexander Pruss’s work (The principle of sufficient reason: A reassessment, pp. 240–248, 2006), I (Weaver, Synthese 184(3):299–317, 2012) have argued that if all purely contingent events could be caused and something like a Lewisian analysis of causation is true (per, Lewis’s, Causation as influence, reprinted in: Collins, Hall and paul. Causation and counterfactuals, 2004), then all purely contingent events have causes. I dubbed the derivation of the universality of causation the “Lewisian argument”. The Lewisian argument assumed not a few controversial metaphysical theses, particularly essentialism, an incommunicable-property view of essences (per Plantinga’s, Actualism and possible worlds, reprinted in: Davidson (ed.) Essays in the metaphysics of modality, 2003), and the idea that counterfactual dependence is necessary for causation. There are, of course, substantial objections to such theses. While I think a fight against objections to the Lewisian argument can be won, I develop, in what follows, a much more intuitive argument for the universality of causation which takes as its inspiration a result from Frederic B. Fitch’s work (J Symb Logic 28(2):135–142, 1963) [with credit to who we now know was Alonzo church’s, Referee Reports on Fitch’s Definition of value, in: (Salerno (ed.), New essays on the knowability paradox, 2009)] that if all truths are such that they are knowable, then (counter-intuitively) all truths are known. The resulting Church–Fitch proof for the universality of causation is preferable to the Lewisian argument since it rests upon far weaker formal and metaphysical assumptions than those of the Lewisian argument.


Causation Knowability Universality of causation