Causing and Doing

  • David-Hillel Ruben


I start by explaining what an intrinsic event is. The expression, ‘intrinsic event’, is not innocent; I explain it as best I can here, but the remainder of the book returns repeatedly to this idea and further clarifies it.

Philosophers and linguists interested in the question of the relation between doing and causing often refer to, and often conflate, two claims. One of the claims, which is often referred to as Causative Alternation (CA) in the linguistics literature, is an indisputable truth of semantics and the other, (PT) (for ‘Paraphrase Thesis’), is a controversial philosophical analysis. A theme of the chapter is the need to separate out views on the semantics of action verbs from views about the metaphysics of action.

The Paraphrase Thesis (PT) says, roughly, that an agent acts iff he [but note: he, not his action] causes some event, for instance, e, and e is then said (in many cases) to be intrinsic to that action. (PT) is false. Since it entails a biconditional, it has two parts: a left-to-right entailment and a right-to-left entailment. In this chapter I examine only the right-to-left entailment.

I distinguish the expressions ‘P caused such-and-such’, ‘P was a cause of such-and-such’, and ‘P was the cause of such-and-such’. I also introduce a distinction about causation in order to support my dismissal of the right-to-left entailment: remoteness of cause and partiality of cause.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David-Hillel Ruben
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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