The Direction of Causation
Mackie (J.L.)
Source: Philosophical Review 75.4, Oct. 1966, pp. 441-466
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    We seem to recognize a relation of "causal priority", distinct from temporal priority, which constitutes the difference between "causing" and "being the effect of"; the problem is to give an account of this relation. Several possible analyses of causal priority are considered and rejected. Light is thrown on this relation by an imaginary precognition experiment which, if successful, would give evidence for time-reversed causation1. This leads to an account of causal priority in terms of the contrast between fixity (as seen in what is past or present) and nonfixity (as seen in future contingents). An account is also given of "priority with respect to the dispersal of order". It is concluded that this last, causal priority as analyzable in terms of fixity, and temporal priority are all distinct: it is a contingent fact that they seem always to coincide.

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