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Causation and Counterfactuals: Lewis' Treatment Reconsidered

  • Alexander Rosenberg (a1)

In this paper I bring together and discuss claims that David Lewis has made in Counterfactuals, and in “Causation,” and explore a number of difficulties which the views of these two works make for each other. If these difficulties are as serious as I suggest, they will require revision or rejection of the view of causation that Lewis defends.

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1 Counterfactuals (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972), and Causation,” Journal of Philosophy, 70 (1973): 556–7, reprinted in Sosa, E., Causation and Conditionals, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975): 180–91. Page references in the text are to the reprinting in Sosa's collection, unless otherwise noted.

2 Causation and Counterfactuals,” Journal of Philosophy, op. cit. note 1: 570–2.

3 This is a problem that Berofsky touches on in his comment on “Causation,” ibid. p. 568–9.

4 Kenton Machina argues cogently for this view in Vague Predicates,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 9 (1972): 225234.

5 This view, often attributed to Kneale, is explicitly advanced in Molnar, G., “Kneale's Argument Revisited,” Philosophical Review, 78 (1969): 79–89, reprinted in Tom Beauchamp, ed. Philosophical Problems of Causation (Encino: Dickenson, 1973): 106–113.

6 It is important for the purposes of this argument to remember that the same set of laws governs the behaviour of both the atmosphere and barometers in our world. Of course, in a world which differed from ours very greatly, different laws might govern the relation among thermodynamic properties of the atmosphere that account for our weather, and the relation among these properties and mechanical ones that account for the operation of barometers.

7 Causation, Nomic Subsumption, and the Concept of an Event,” Journal of Philosophy 70 (1973): 217–36.

8 Lewis' solution to the problems of epiphenomena and of preempted potential causes involve just the same considerations as his treatment of the problem of effects.

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
  • URL: /core/journals/dialogue-canadian-philosophical-review-revue-canadienne-de-philosophie
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