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HUM-Fagkomiteen for humaniora

Causation, dispositions and laws: A conditional analysis of causal matters

Awarded: NOK 2.5 mill.

Some of the most urgent questions facing humankind cannot be answered until we understand causation. These questions can be environmental, medical or political. Does motoring cause global warming? Does smoking cause cancer? Did Saddam's actions cause the Iraq war? These are life and death issues. Such questions can also be found at a more mundane and everyday level. Does lack of exercise cause obesity? Does pressing the doorbell cause it to ring? Does my behaviour cause offence? Questions of causation thu s affect every aspect of our lives, from the very ordinary to the most pressing. How we understand these questions will depend crucially on what we take causation to be. Understanding and explaining causation is distinctly and exclusively a task for philo sophers. Science is concerned only with facts about what happens or what we might expect to happen. Science can tell us that the planet is heating up and that carbon emissions are increasing. But it can never tell us what kind of relation there is between the two. To decide whether there is causation we must first know what it is and this is one of the last, big metaphysical questions we face. This project will be to develop a plausible and novel account of causation that avoids the problems of all previ ous accounts. The key notions upon which my account will be based are power and hypotheticality. The former gives us necessary connections in nature. The latter gives us potentiality. In turn, these features will ground explanation and prediction. This wi ll make use of my previous work on conditional, 'if A, then B', sentences. I argued that all major approaches to conditionals failed because they could not offer adequate accounts of laws, potentialities and powers. The project will exploit and illuminate the interdependence between causation and hypotheticals. The aim is to revise the conceptual fundament in terms of power and its manifestation in place of contingent cause and effect.

Funding scheme:

HUM-Fagkomiteen for humaniora