Dispositional versus epistemic causality

  • Williamson J
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Abstract

It is tempting to analyse causality in terms of just one of the indicators of causal relationships, e.g., mechanisms, probabilistic dependencies or independencies, counterfactual conditionals or agency considerations. While such an analysis will surely shed light on some aspect of our concept of cause, it will fail to capture the whole, rather multifarious, notion. So one might instead plump for pluralism: a different analysis for a different occasion. But we do not seem to have lots of different concepts of cause - just one eclectic notion. The resolution of this conundrum, I think, requires us to accept that our causal beliefs are generated by a wide variety of indicators, but to deny that this variety of indicators yields a variety of concepts of cause. This focus on the relation between evidence and causal beliefs leads to what I call *epistemic* causality. Under this view, certain causal beliefs are appropriate or rational on the basis of observed evidence; our notion of cause can be understood purely in terms of these rational beliefs. Causality, then, is a feature of our epistemic representation of the world, rather than of the world itself. This yields one, multifaceted notion of cause.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Capacities
  • Causality
  • Causation
  • Dispositions

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Authors

  • Jon Williamson

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