, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 111–133 | Cite as

Causal Slingshots

  • Michael BaumgartnerEmail author
Original Article


Causal slingshots are formal arguments advanced by proponents of an event ontology of token-level causation which, in the end, are intended to show two things: (i) The logical form of statements expressing causal dependencies on token level features a binary predicate “… causes …” and (ii) that predicate takes events as arguments. Even though formalisms are only revealing with respect to the logical form of natural language statements, if the latter are shown to be adequately captured within a corresponding formalism, proponents of slingshots usually take the adequacy of their formalizations for granted without justifying it. The first part of this paper argues that the most discussed version of a causal slingshot, viz. the one e.g. presented by Davidson (Essays on actions and events. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1980), can indeed be refuted for relying on an inadequate formal apparatus. In contrast, the formal means of Gödel’s (The philosophy of Betrand Russell. New York, Tudor, 1944) often neglected slingshot are shown to stand on solid ground in the second part of the paper. Nonetheless, I contend that Gödel’s slingshot does only half the work friends of event causation would like it to do. It provides good reasons for (i) but not for (ii).


Causal Statement Definite Description Fact Theorist Class Abstract Causal Dependency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



My particular thanks go to Timm Lampert for countless discussions about facts and slingshots, as well as for our common work on logical formalization. Moreover, I am grateful to Michael Gabbay and to the anonymous referees of this journal for very helpful comments on earlier drafts. Finally, I thank the Swiss National Science Foundation for generous support of this work (grant PP001-114812/1).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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