Philosophy Causation
by
Jonathan L. Kvanvig, Trent Dougherty
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0017

Introduction

Causation is a notion that is put to work in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and even aesthetics. This bibliography addresses the main controversies surrounding this central notion itself, leaving to other entries in the relevant subfields the task of citing literature on causation relevant to the special concerns of these subdisciplines. The entry focuses on the nature of the causal relata, the objectivity of the relation, and its relation to the laws of nature, all of which have been subject to significant controversies. On the question of causal relata, the main controversy is whether it is events or facts that are related by causation, but there are alternative views as well. The ordinary assumption has been that causation is a real, objective feature of reality, but investigation of the ways in which the language of causation is context-sensitive raises questions about this assumption. In addition, a natural approach to causation is to identify it with the patterns of history that reflect the operation of laws of nature, but this regularity picture of causation has been challenged by defenders of singularity perspectives, according to which causation can occur without having any basis or connection with laws of nature. Both probabilistic and deterministic accounts will be treated, including the main alternatives in the latter camp.

General Overviews

There are hardly any general overviews of work on causation, but two deserve mention here. Already available is Hall 2008, which provides a relatively brief but quite valuable survey of many of the recent controversies concerning causation. More detailed is Beebee, et al. 2010, with articles by central figures in the area and providing broad and deep coverage of the major issues and controversies concerning causation.

  • Beebee, Helen, Christopher Hitchcock, and Peter Menzies, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Causation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Presents overviews and novel viewpoints about the entire range of causation, from its fundamental nature to how it relates to laws of nature and freedom of the will. Also addresses the epistemology of causation and the role of causation in ethics, such as the distinction between acts and omissions.

  • Hall, Ned. “Causation.” In The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy. Edited by Frank Jackson and Michael Smith, 505–533. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    E-mail Citation »

    A detailed account of current work on causation, with a particularly useful taxonomy of the fundamental issues involved in the theory of causation.

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