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Dispositional versus epistemic causality


I put forward several desiderata that a philosophical theory of causality should satisfy: it should account for the objectivity of causality, it should underpin formalisms for causal reasoning, it should admit a viable epistemology, it should be able to cope with the great variety of causal claims that are made, and it should be ontologically parsimonious. I argue that Nancy Cartwright’s dispositional account of causality goes part way towards meeting these criteria but is lacking in important respects. I go on to argue that my epistemic account, which ties causal relationships to an agent’s knowledge and ignorance, performs well in the light of the desiderata. Such an account, I claim, is all we require from a theory of causality.

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I am very grateful to Laurence Goldstein, Federica Russo and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Correspondence to Jon Williamson.

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Williamson, J. Dispositional versus epistemic causality. Minds & Machines 16, 259–276 (2006).

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  • Causality
  • Causation
  • Dispositions
  • Capacities