Causality and Determination
Anscombe (G.E.M.)
Source: Sosa & Tooby - Causation
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. It is often declared or evidently assumed that causality1 is some kind of necessary connection, or alternatively, that being caused is — non-trivially — instancing some exceptionless generalization saying that such an event always follows such antecedents. Or the two conceptions are combined.
  2. Obviously there can be, and are, a lot of divergent views covered by this account. Any view that it covers nevertheless manifests one particular doctrine or assumption. Namely;
      If an effect occurs in one case and a similar effect does not occur in an apparently similar case, there must be a relevant further difference.
  3. Any radically different account of causation2, then, by contrast with which all those diverse views will be as one, will deny this assumption. Such a radically opposing view can grant that often — though it is difficult to say generally when — the assumption of relevant difference is a sound principle of investigation. It may grant that there are necessitating causes, but will refuse to identify causation3 as such with necessitation. It can grant that there are situations in which, given the initial conditions and no interference, only one result will accord with the laws of nature; but it will not see general reason, in advance of discovery, to suppose that any given course of things has been so determined. So it may grant that in many cases difference of issue can rightly convince us of a relevant difference of circumstances; but it will deny that, quite generally, this must be so.
  4. The first view is common to many philosophers of the past. It is also. usually but not always in a neo-Humean form, the prevailing received opinion throughout the currently busy and productive philosophical schools of the English-speaking world, and also in some of the European and Latin-American schools where philosophy is pursued in at all the same sort of way; nor is it confined to these schools. So firmly rooted is it that for many even outside pure philosophy, it routinely determines the meaning of 'cause’, when consciously used as a theoretical term: witness the terminology of the contrast between "causal" and "statistical" laws, which is drawn by writers on physics – writers, note, who would not conceive themselves to be addicts of any philosophic school when they use this language to express that contrast.
  5. The truth of this conception is hardly debated. It is, indeed, a bit of Weltanschauung: it helps to form a cast of mind which is characteristic of our whole culture.


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