Counterfactual Theories of Causation
Menzies (Peter)
Source: Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2001-8
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

The basic idea of counterfactual theories of causation1 is that the meaning of causal claims can be explained in terms of counterfactual conditionals of the form “If A had not occurred, C would not have occurred”. While counterfactual analyses have been given of type-causal concepts, most counterfactual analyses have focused on singular causal or token-causal claims of the form “event c caused event e”. Analyses of token-causation2 have become popular in the last thirty years, especially since the development in the 1970's of possible world semantics for counterfactuals. The best known counterfactual analysis of causation3 is David Lewis's (1973b) theory. However, intense discussion over thirty years has cast doubt on the adequacy of any simple analysis of singular causation4 in terms of counterfactuals. Recent years have seen a proliferation of different refinements of the basic idea to achieve a closer match with common-sense judgements about causation5.

  1. Early Counterfactual Theories
  2. Lewis's 1973 Counterfactual Analysis
    … 2.1 Counterfactuals and Causal Dependence
    … 2.2 The Temporal Asymmetry of Causal Dependence
    … 2.3 Transitivity and Preemption
    … 2.4 Chancy Causation6
    … 2.5 The Theory's Advantages
  3. Problems for Lewis's Counterfactual Theory
    … 3.1 Context-sensitivity
    … 3.2 Temporal Asymmetry
    … 3.3 Transitivity
    … 3.4 Preemption
  4. Later Developments
    … 4.1 Lewis's 2000 Theory
    … 4.2 Causation7 as Intrinsic Relation
    … 4.3 The Structural Equations Framework
    Other Internet Resources
    Related Entries


First published Wed Jan 10, 2001; substantive revision Sun Mar 30, 2008; see Link.

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