Probabilistic Causation and the Pre-emption Problem
Menzies (Peter)
Source: Mind, 105, No. 417, Jan., 1996, pp. 85-117
Paper - Abstract

Paper Summary

Philosophers Index Abstract

    I argue that it is impossible to provide a reductive analysis of singular causation1, whether deterministic or probabilistic, in terms of probabilistic relations and/or counterfactuals. A problem, which I call the preemption problem, proves to be an insuperable obstacle for any such reductive analysis. I direct this argument against David Lewis's counterfactual theory of causation2. I argue that the correct conclusion to draw from the failure of such reductive analyses is that singular causation3 has to be treated as theoretical entity. I offer an definition of singular causation4 as a theoretical entity, applying David Lewis's own refinement of the Ramsey-Carnap theory of scientific theoretical terms. I use the resulting definition to resolve the preemption problem.

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