Chance-changing causal processes

In Phil Dowe & Paul Noordhof (eds.), Cause and Chance: Causation in an Indeterministic World. New York: Routledge. pp. 39-57 (2003)
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Scepticism concerning the idea of causation being linked to contingent chance-raising is articulated in Beebee’s challenging chapter. She suggests that none of these approaches will avoid the consequence that spraying defoliant on a weed is a cause of the weed’s subsequent health. We will always be able to abstract away enough of the healthy plant processes so all that’s left is the causal chain involving defoliation and health. In those circumstances, there will be contingent chance-raising. Beebee’s conclusion is that we should reject the idea of contingent chance-raising and just accept that all causation involves chance-raising. This involves the reclassification of some intuitive cases of causation as causal processes without causation but rather hindering (a distinctive kind of process). It seems clear from this discussion and from the brief earlier remarks about the status of prevention that the classification of types of causal processes and the characterization of their link to causation are matters of some importance.

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Helen Beebee
University of Leeds


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