Causation in terms of production


In this paper, we analyse actual causation in terms of production. The latter concept is made precise by a strengthened Ramsey Test semantics of conditionals: \(A \gg C\) iff, after suspending judgement about A and C, C is believed in the course of assuming A. This test allows us to (epistemically) verify or falsify that an event brings about another event. Complementing the concept of production by a weak condition of difference-making gives rise to a full-fledged analysis of causation.

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  1. 1.

    Gärdenfors (1986) has proven a triviality theorem concerning the Ramsey Test, after a conditional logic was developed on the basis of this test in Gärdenfors (1979). Recently, however, there have been various, apparently successful attempts at defending the Ramsey Test in light of this result [see, e.g., Bradley (2007)]. We show that our strengthened Ramsey Test does not imply triviality in Andreas and Günther (2018a). The following section draws on this paper, where the conditional \(\gg \) has been defined for the first time.

  2. 2.

    In the Treatise, Hume (1739/1978, p. 170, our emphasis) defines: “A cause is an object precedent and contiguous to another, and so united with it, that the idea of the one determines the mind to form the idea of the other”. In more modern terms, if an event C precedes another E (and is contiguous), Hume calls C a cause of E iff C is an epistemic reason for E. Observe that the notion of causation is relative to a ‘mind’.

  3. 3.

    A diagram of a model \({\mathcal {A}}\) is the set of all closed literals (in a given language) that are true in \({\mathcal {A}}\). The notion of a first order diagram has a clear analogue for propositional languages. In the case of propositional logic, a diagram contains for any propositional constant A, either A or \(\lnot A\). Such a diagram represents a valuation of a language of propositional logic.

  4. 4.

    Many thanks to an anonymous referee for pointing our attention to scenarios of the present type.

  5. 5.

    Condition (C4) is inspired by Rott (1986). Recently, a conceptually similar condition has been used by Beckers and Vennekens (2017, 2018) in an analysis of actual causation.

  6. 6.

    In Andreas and Günther (2018b), we defined the strengthened Ramsey Test in the framework of causal models by Halpern and Pearl (2005). Thereby, we put forth a variant of the present analysis of actual causation in terms of causal models. The analysis there is not reductive since structural equations of a causal model are presumed to encode primitive causal relations.


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We would like to thank Hannes Leitgeb and Andrew Irvine for very valuable advice on earlier versions of the paper. Special thanks are also due to Hans Rott and Paul Bartha for very helpful comments on presentations of the paper. Finally, we are indebted to the anonymous referees for Philosophical Studies. Their comments greatly helped us improve the paper. This research has been supported, in part, by the Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences.

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Correspondence to Mario Günther.

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Andreas, H., Günther, M. Causation in terms of production. Philos Stud 177, 1565–1591 (2020).

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  • Actual causation
  • Production
  • Ramsey test
  • Counterfactual dependence and difference-making
  • Belief revision