The Non‐Occurrence Of Events

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2):269-285 (2017)
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What is it for an event not to occur? This is an urgent, yet under explored, question for counterfactual analyses of causation quite generally. In this paper I take a lead from Lewis in identifying two different possible standards of non-occurrence that we might adopt and I argue that we need to apply them asymmetrically: one standard for the cause, another for the effect. This is a surprising result. I then offer a contextualist refinement of the Lewis approach in light of initial problems, and discuss how the asymmetry remained hidden until now. I then relate the non-occurrence problem to issues of transitivity and proportionality in causation, before showing that a parallel problem exists for contrastivist and interventionist approaches to causation too.

Author's Profile

Neil McDonnell
University of Glasgow


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