Pragmatic causation

In Huw Price & Richard Corry (eds.), Causation, Physics, and the Constitution of Reality: Russell's Republic Revisited. Oxford University Press (2007)
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Russell famously argued that causation should be dispensed with. He gave two explicit arguments for this conclusion, both of which can be defused if we loosen the ties between causation and determinism. I show that we can define a concept of causation which meets Russell’s conditions but does not reduce to triviality. Unfortunately, a further serious problem is implicit beneath the details of Russell’s arguments, which I call the causal exclusion problem. Meeting this problem involves deploying a minimalist pragmatic account of the nature and function of modal language. Russell’s scruples about causation can be accommodated, even as we partially legitimise the pervasive causal explanations in folk and scientific practice.

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Antony Eagle
University of Adelaide


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