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Cause, causatives and theories of causation

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The aim of this paper is to draw attention to the difficulties the ubiquity of causatives such as oxidise, transduce, dampen and prolong in scientific language raise for truth-conditional theories of causation which have the form ‘C causes E if and only if…’ or a near variant. The difficulties are a consequence of three features of the use of causatives in science: they are ineliminable, they represent causal relations and processes of many different metaphysical kinds, and they are polysemous. I argue that no truth-conditional theory of causation can do justice to the use of causatives in scientific language. I then sketch an alternative, inferentialist theory of causation and finally show how it deals with causatives.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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