The physical foundations of causation

In Huw Price & Richard Corry (eds.), Causation, Physics, and the Constitution of Reality: Russell's Republic Revisited. Oxford University Press (2006)
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I defend what may loosely be called an eliminativist account of causation by showing how several of the main features of causation, namely asymmetry, transitivity, and necessitation, arise from the combination of fundamental dynamical laws and a special constraint on the macroscopic structure of matter in the past. At the microscopic level, the causal features of necessitation and transitivity are grounded, but not the asymmetry. At the coarse-grained level of the macroscopic physics, the causal asymmetry is grounded, but not the necessitation or transitivity. Thus, at no single level of description does the physics justify the conditions that are taken to be constitutive of causation. Nevertheless, if we mix our reasoning about the microscopic and macroscopic descriptions, the structure provided by the dynamics and special initial conditions can justify the folk concept of causation to a significant extent. I explain why our causal concept works so well even though at bottom it is comprised of a patchwork of principles that don't mesh well

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Douglas Kutach
Rutgers University - New Brunswick (PhD)


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