Short Answer Questions (submit online)
- Explain how the regularity account is by itself inadequate as an account of causation.
- How does the counterfactual account improve the regularity account of causation?
- What is the dilemma that defeats causal fundamentalism according to Norton?
For Further Discussion
- The Naïve statistical account of causation says that C has a causal influence on E if and only if C raises the probability of E, in that Pr(E|C)>Pr(E).
- Under what circumstances might this approach be more useful or robust than the regularity account?
- Give an example to show that this account fails to distinguish between "genuinely" causal relationships and mere accidents.
- Give an example to show that this account fails to distinguish between causes and effects.
- Give an example to show that this account fails to distinguish causes and effects from a common cause.
- Give an example to show that this account fails to distinguish genuine causes from preemptive backups.
- Can you think of anything in particular that could be added to the statistical account that might improve it?
- Counterfactual accounts of causation say that C causes E if and only if 1) C implies C and E, and 2) if C had not occurred, then E would not have occurred.
- Does this account correctly distinguish between accidental relationships and "genuinely" causal ones? Why or why not?
- Does this account correctly distinguish between causes and effects (without specifying the order in time)? Why or why not?
- Does this account correctly distinguish causes and effects from the existence of a common cause?
- Preemptive Backups: Consider a firing squad in which one soldier actually fires the gun and shoots the prisoner, and the other stands there ready to provide the coup de grace in case the first soldier misses. Let's suppose that the first soldier actually does hit and kill the prisoner. Did that soldier cause the prisoners death? What would the counterfactual account say about this case? Does this seem reasonable? (This is a central problem for the counterfactual view.)
- More preemptive backups: Two children decide to break a window. One throws the rock that shatters the window. The other stands ready with a second rock in case the first child misses. Did the first child cause the window to break? What would the counterfactual account say?
- The case against causal fundamentalism. There is a long history of challenges to causal fundamentalism, the view that Nature is governed by cause and effect.
- Why does Russell reject causal fundamentalism? How is this distinct from what Norton says about it?
- How does Norton suggest the history of causation gives us some reason to reject causal fundamentalism?
- Norton says the causal fundamentalist faces a dilemma, both
horns of which doom the view. Do you agree? If not, which horn of the dilemma would you accept?
- Norton's dome is an example of a system that obeys Newton's law that F=ma, and yet is indeterministic — the ball can spontaneously roll of the apex of the dome at any arbitrary moment in time.
- Does the existence of an indeterministic system like this undermine the possibility of causal fundamentalism? Why or why not?
- Is this Norton's dome a plausible example of a Newtonian system? Is it relevant for the status of causal fundamentalism? Why or why not?