A Identity Theory of Causation
I propose a modern identity theory of causation. That causation should be understood in terms of persistence is suggested by a close examination of causality in the biologic sciences. I contrast the epidemiologic model, the most important part of which is a reduction of causation to strong, perhaps invariable, correlation with a model based on the premise that causes are persistences. Many practical advantages of the latter model are pointed out. The notion of persistence embodied in this model must, however, be modified significantly before it is applicable to cases outside of biology. Nor are the notions of persistence put forth by John Mackie or by Wesley Salmon adequate, I show. Instead I adapt an idea from physics--that of labelling. The use of labels allows one to measure the persistence of objects that do not fragment but change radically. For objects that fragment, the persistence of the object's parts can be measured. The theory I propose also, unlike Salmon's, avoids many problems that occur when one attempts to explicate continuous causal processes. In order to use the labelling criterion to understand causality it is crucial also to discuss the close relationship between objects and events, both of which I take to be four-dimensional space-time regions or zones. I use the labelling criterion to distinguish causal from accidental regularities, including accidental regularities which are very strong or even invariable. I next explore the question of overdetermination. That no genuine cases of causal overdetermination occur is due to a principle linked to the conservation laws. Examination of this point provides an additional argument for the identity theory. In order to deal with a possible objection to my theory, brought about by factors which contribute minimally to the effect and which one would not want to regard as causes, I propose an additional criterion, the criterion of "weight." Lastly, I deal with the problem of extending my theory to the quantum domain. I believe the theory I propose is consistent with two key notions inherent in quantum physics, those of "discontinuity" and "indiscernibility.".
- Pub Date:
- Philosophy; Health Sciences: Medicine and Surgery; Physics: General