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

Paper StatisticsBooks / Papers Citing this PaperNotes Citing this PaperColour-ConventionsDisclaimer

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 Stanford Archive: Counterfactual Theories of Causation.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Feb 2019. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page