The Metaphysics of Causation
Schaffer (Jonathan)
Source: Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2003-7
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

What must a world be like, to host causal relations? When the cue ball knocks the nine ball into the corner pocket, in virtue of what is this a case of causation1?

Questions about the metaphysics of causation2 may be usefully divided as follows. First, there are questions about the nature of the causal relata, including (1.1) whether they are in spacetime (immanence), (1.2) how fine-grained they are (individuation3), and (1.3) how many there are (adicity). Second, there are questions about the metaphysics of the causal relation, including (2.1) what is the difference between causally related and causally unrelated sequences (connection), (2.2) what is the difference between sequences related as cause to effect, and those related as effect to cause or as joint effects of a common cause (direction), and (2.3) what is the difference between sequences involving the cause, and those involving mere conditions (selection).

Philosophers have, of course, disagreed over all of these questions. In what follows, I shall survey some of the main arguments in the literature.

  1. Relata
    … 1.1 Immanence
    … 1.2 Individuation4
    … 1.3 Adicity
    … … 1.3.1 Contrastivity
    … … 1.3.2 Secondary Relata
  2. Relation
    … 2.1 Connection
    … … 2.1.1 Probability, Process, and Problems
    … … 2.1.2 Hybrids, Primitivism, and Eliminativism
    … 2.2 Direction
    … 2.3 Selection
    Other Internet Resources


First published Sun Feb 2, 2003; substantive revision Mon Aug 13, 2007; see Stanford Archive: The Metaphysics of Causation.

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