Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 5, pp 1323–1361 | Cite as

Folk intuitions of actual causation: a two-pronged debunking explanation

  • David RoseEmail author


How do we determine whether some candidate causal factor is an actual cause of some particular outcome? Many philosophers have wanted a view of actual causation which fits with folk intuitions of actual causation and those who wish to depart from folk intuitions of actual causation are often charged with the task of providing a plausible account of just how and where the folk have gone wrong. In this paper, I provide a range of empirical evidence aimed at showing just how and where the folk go wrong in determining whether an actual causal relation obtains. The evidence suggests that folk intuitions of actual causation are generated by two epistemically defective processes. I situate the empirical evidence within a background discussion of debunking, arguing for a two-pronged debunking explanation of folk intuitions of actual causation. I conclude that those who wish to depart from folk intuitions of actual causation should not be compelled to square their account of actual causation with the verdicts of the folk. In the dispute over actual causation, folk intuitions deserve to be rejected.


Actual causation Folk intuitions Debunking 



I would like to thank Wesley Buckwalter, Elizabeth Camp, Georgi Gardiner, Alvin Goldman, Josh Knobe, Shaun Nichols, Jonathan Schaffer, Stephen Stich, John Turri and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on previous versions of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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