Lewis’ Modal Realism and Absence Causation
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A major criticism of David Lewis’ counterfactual theory of causation is that it allows too many things to count as causes, especially since Lewis allows, in addition to events, absences to be causes as well. Peter Menzies has advanced this concern under the title “the problem of profligate causation.” In this paper, I argue that the problem of profligate causation provides resources for exposing a tension between Lewis’ acceptance of absence causation and his modal realism. The result is a different problem of profligate causation—one that attacks the internal consistency of Lewisian metaphysics rather than employing common sense judgments or intuitions that conflict with Lewis’ extensive list of causes.
KeywordsDavid Lewis Counterfactual theory of causation Absence causation Modal realism
I am grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for financial support; the funding was used to attend its 2009 Summer Seminar on Metaphysics and Mind, which included a particularly helpful presentation by Phil Dowe on absence causation. Thanks as well to Adam Podlaskowski and Megan Wallace for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
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