Causal Selection and Egalitarianism

In Shaun Nichols & Joshua Knobe (eds.), Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Volume 5. Oxford University Press (2024)
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The chapter explores whether, or to what extent, recent work in experimental philosophy puts pressure on the idea that the concept of causation is ‘egalitarian’. Causal selection – where experimental subjects tend to rate the causal strength of (for example) a norm-violator more strongly than a non-norm-violator – is a well established phenomenon, and is in prima facie tension with an egalitarian conception of causation; it also, indirectly, puts prima facie pressure on the idea that causation is a worldly phenomenon whose obtaining is independent of facts about norms. The chapter explores both the various psychological mechanisms and the broadly pragmatic approaches to explaining causal selection. It argues that the answer to the question whether or not the concept of causation is egalitarian is currently significantly empirically underdetermined, and suggests some avenues for further investigation.

Author Profiles

Jon Bebb
University of Liverpool
Helen Beebee
University of Leeds


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