A causal ontology of objects, causal relations, and various kinds of action

Synthese 200 (4):1-28 (2022)
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Abstract

The basic kinds of physical causality that are foundational for other kinds of causality involve objects and the causal relations between them. These interactions do not involve events. If events were ontologically significant entities for causality in general, then they would play a role in simple mechanical interactions. But arguments about simple collisions looked at from different frames of reference show that events cannot play a role in simple mechanical interactions, and neither can the entirely hypothetical causal relations between events. These arguments show that physics, which should be authoritative when it comes to the metaphysics of causality, gives no reasons to believe that events are causal agents. Force relations and some cases of energy-momentum transfer are examples of causal relations, with forces being paradigmatic in the macroscopic world, though it is conceivable that there are other kinds of causal relation. A relation between two objects is a causal relation if and only if when it is instantiated by the two objects there is a possibility that the objects that are the terms of the relation could change. The basic metaphysics of causality is about objects, causal relations, changes in objects, and a causal primitive. The paper also includes a discussion of the metaphysics of forces and a discussion of the metaphysics of energy and momentum exchanges.

Author's Profile

Andrew Newman
University of Nebraska, Omaha

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