Transitivity and proportionality in causation

McDonnell, N. (2018) Transitivity and proportionality in causation. Synthese, 195(3), pp. 1211-1229. (doi: 10.1007/s11229-016-1263-1)

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It is widely assumed that causation is transitive, but putative counterexamples abound. These examples come in three varieties: switching cases, short circuit cases, and what I will call mismatch cases. In this paper I focus on the mismatch variety, which is widely taken to be the easiest to resolve. I will first introduce the cases and the existing strategy for dealing with them, then present a new counterexample which is immune to that strategy. In response to this new counterexample I will introduce a novel solution, one drawing on Yablo’s proportionality principle for causation. There is a catch, however. Either proportionality is a strong constraint—it constrains which causal claims are true—and the solution works, or it is not and causation is not transitive after all. I will argue that the first horn has unacceptable consequences and should be rejected, but that the second horn may be less costly than it initially appears.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McDonnell, Dr Neil
Authors: McDonnell, N.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Journal Name:Synthese
Publisher:Springer Netherlands
ISSN (Online):1573-0964
Published Online:17 November 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Author
First Published:First published in Synthese 195(3):12111-1229
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
661041EmergenceFiona MacphersonThe John Templeton Foundation (JTF)40485HU - PHILOSOPHY