A variety of causes

Paul Noordhof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Metaphysicians often focus on what is vertically fundamental, appealing to grounding or truth-making, rather than what is horizontally fundamental: what must be common to any metaphysical picture of the universe. There is a case for causation being one such feature. But how should it be characterized? A revised semantics for counterfactuals provides the basis for a new counterfactual analysis of causation that is compatible with Humean supervenience but also appropriate for a non-Humean metaphysical framework. Causes (independently of their competitors) both make the chance of an effect very much greater than its mean background chance in the circumstances and actually influences the probability of the effect in this way at the time at which the effect occurred via a complete causal chain. Causation understood in this way is a non-transitive relation. It is neutral over the metaphysics of causes and effects but allows a natural way for events to be understood as one fundamental type of causation, the other being property causation. Although negative causal statements are true, there are no cases of negative causation. The analysis explains how causation involving substantial processes is only one variety of causation, others include double prevention. It allows for a variety of micro- and macro-properties to be the basis of the difference between cause and effect. Laws are patterns of causation realized in different ways in different metaphysical pictures. The analysis of causation characterizes a horizontally fundamental property whose modal character depends upon its different realizations.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages574
ISBN (Electronic)9780199251469
ISBN (Print)9780199251469
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Paul Noordhof 2020.


  • Agency
  • Causation
  • Chance
  • Counterfactual
  • Laws
  • Necessity
  • Processes

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