Pre-emption cases may support, not undermine, the counterfactual theory of causation

Synthese:1-19 (forthcoming)
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Pre-emption cases have been taken by almost everyone to imply the unviability of the simple counterfactual theory of causation. Yet there is ample motivation from scientific practice to endorse a simple version of the theory if we can. There is a way in which a simple counterfactual theory, at least if understood contrastively, can be supported even while acknowledging that intuition goes firmly against it in pre-emption cases – or rather, only in some of those cases. For I present several new pre-emption cases in which causal intuition does not go against the counterfactual theory, a fact that has been verified experimentally. I suggest an account of framing effects that can square the circle. Crucially, this account offers hope of theoretical salvation – but only to the counterfactual theory of causation, not to others. Again, there is experimental support for this account.
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Archival date: 2019-05-10
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