All men are animals: hypothetical, categorical, or material?


The conditional interpretation of general categorical statements like ‘All men are animals’ as universally quantified material conditionals ‘For all x, if x is F, then x is G’ suggests that the logical structure of law statements is conditional rather than categorical. Disregarding the problem that the universally quantified material conditional is trivially true whenever there are no xs that are F, there are some reasons to be sceptical of Frege’s equivalence between categorical and conditional expressions. Now many philosophers will claim that the material conditional interpretation of laws statements, dispositions ascriptions, or any causal claim is generally accepted as wrong and outdated. Still, there seem to be some basic logical assumptions that are shared by most of the participants in the debate on causal matters which at least stems from the traditional truth functional interpretation of conditionals. This is indicated by the vocabulary in the philosophical debate on causation, where one often speaks of ‘counterfactuals’, ‘possible worlds’ and ‘necessity’ without being explicit on whether or to what extent one accepts the logical-technical definition of these notions. To guarantee a non-Humean and non-extensional approach to causal relations, it is therefore important to be aware of the logical and metaphysical implications of the technical vocabulary. In this paper we want to show why extensional logic cannot deal with causal relations. Via a logical analysis of law-like statements ‘All Fs are Gs’ we hope to throw some new light on interrelated notions like causation, laws, induction, hypotheticality and modality. If successful, our analysis should be of relevance for a deeper understanding of any type of causal relations, whether we understand them to be laws, dispositions, singulars or categoricals.

Author's Profile

Rani Anjum
University of Tromsø (PhD)


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