Causation, Probability and Chance: Critical Notice of D. H. Mellor, The Facts of Causation

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In this critical notice, I assess four key claims of Hugh Mellor's book, 'The Facts of Causation'. The first claim is that the fundamental kind of causal statement concerns facts rather than events. I argue that, contrary to what Mellor supposes, one can formulate cases of iterated causation and negative causation in terms of events and that Mellor's arguments partly fail because he does not attend to the distinction between the claim that even statements are primary and the claim that the fundamental constituents of reality that make causal statements true include events. I also question his derivation of statements of effect-causation from statements of fact-causation. The second claim of Mellor's book is that causation is not a relation. I argue that he overlooks the possibility that there may be causal relations in the world without every causal statement being made true by its own distinctive causal relation. The third claim of Mellor's book is that causes raise the chances of their effects. I argue that Mellor's theory has the resources to deal with problematic cases like those of early preemption so long as certain adjustments are made to his account of the circumstances relative to which a cause must be a chance-raiser. However, I question whether Mellor's theory succeeds in capturing our intuitive notion of causal necessity in terms of counterfactuals involving chance-raising plus an appeal to continguity. The fourth key claim of Mellor's book is that there can be no backward causation. I argue that this conclusion rests upon an unwarranted assumption that chances are logically independent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-877
Number of pages22
Issue number428
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1998

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