Causal Claims

Abstract: A causal claim is a claim of the form "A was a cause of B". This paper attempts to state the conditions under which we humans take a causal claim to be true, in the case when A and B are events. The basic ideas of the paper are:

  1. Underlying our practice of making causal claims is a commitment to a fundamental metaphysical process, presumably described by fundamental physics, in virtue of which some things are responsible for "making other things happen". I call this process causal production. When one event causally produces another, I say that the events are causally connected.
  2. When we claim that one event is the cause of another, however, we are not simply asserting the existence of a relation of causal connection. Rather, we are picking out elements of the process of causal production that made a difference to the production of the effect. Being causally connected to the effect is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a difference-maker.
  3. The correct account of difference-making is provided by the kairetic account of explanation. In fact, causal claims are just event explanations. (The paper does not presume any prior knowledge of the kairetic account.)

Most of the paper concerns the correct characterization of the difference-making relation. My aim is to give an account of this relation that is as independent as possible of the account given of (a) the psychology of, and (b) the metaphysics of, the process of causal production.

This paper is now (2007) retired. It is superseded by material in the explanation book.