Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 6, pp 1459–1474 | Cite as

Causal exclusion and the limits of proportionality

  • Neil McDonnellEmail author


Causal exclusion arguments are taken to threaten the autonomy of the special sciences, and the causal efficacy of mental properties. A recent line of response to these arguments has appealed to “independently plausible” and “well grounded” theories of causation to rebut key premises. In this paper I consider two papers which proceed in this vein and show that they share a common feature: they both require causes to be proportional (in Yablo’s sense) to their effects. I argue that this feature is a bug, and one that generalises: any attempt to rescue the autonomy of the special sciences, or the efficacy of the mental, from exclusion worries had better not look to proportionality for help.


Causation Exclusion Proportionality List Menzies Zhong Difference making Woodward Intervention Explanation 



I am grateful to Umut Baysan, John Donaldson, Stephan Leuenberger, Peter Menzies, James Woodward, Stephen Yablo, and also to the audience of the Grounding and Emergence conference in Glasgow, 2016, for valuable feedback and advice. The research for this paper was conducted jointly at the University of Glasgow as part of the Glasgow Emergence Project (funded by John Templeton Foundation Grant 40485) and at Universität Hamburg, as part of the DFG Emmy Noether Research Group Ontology After Quine (WO-1896/1-1). I am thankful for the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophisches SeminarUniversität HamburgHamburgGermany

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