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Causal Exclusion and Downward Counterfactuals

Abstract

One of the main line of responses to the infamous causal exclusion problem has been based on the counterfactual account of causation. However, arguments have begun to surface to the effect that the counterfactual theory is in fact ill-equipped to solve the exclusion problem due to its commitment to downward causation. This argumentation is here critically analysed. An analysis of counterfactual dependence is presented and it is shown that if the semantics of counterfactuals is taken into account carefully enough, the counterfactual notion of causation does not need to be committed to downward causation. However, it is a further question whether this is eventually enough to solve the exclusion problem for the analysis shows how the problem itself can take various different forms.

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Notes

  1. The causal relata are treated here as properties or occurrences of properties (following Kim 1998, 2005; List and Menzies 2009; Zhong 2011, 2012, 2015). This is a purely terminological choice that is not meant carry any metaphysical load.

  2. These can be seen as the difference-making or interventionist variants of the autonomy solution to the exclusion problem. The autonomy solution itself is not new and has appeared in various different forms (e.g. Gibbons 2006; Marras 1998; Schlosser 2009; Thomasson 1998).

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Dr Totte Harinen and two anonymous referees of Erkenntnis for helpful criticism, comments and discussions. This work has been financially supported by the Kone Foundation.

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Correspondence to Tuomas K. Pernu.

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Dedication I was informed that this submission had been accepted immediately after receiving the news of Professor Jaakko Hintikka’s (12.01.1929–12.08.2015) death. Although this work does not directly discuss Professor Hintikka’s views, I would like to dedicate the article to his memory. In studying philosophy at the University of Helsinki it was through Professor Hintikka’s work that I became acquainted with the philosophy of modalities and possible world semantics. That ground-breaking and wide-ranging work continues to be relevant in many fields of philosophical analysis, as this article demonstrates.

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Pernu, T.K. Causal Exclusion and Downward Counterfactuals. Erkenn 81, 1031–1049 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-015-9781-7

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Keywords

  • Actual World
  • Mental Property
  • Mental Causation
  • Downward Causation
  • Counterfactual Dependence