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Members' Weekend 2018, Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th August

Causation

This event will take place at Rewley House, Oxford.

Call for Speakers

Dear PhilSoc member,

Our annual Members' Weekend will be held at Rewley House on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th August 2018. The weekend provides an opportunity for members to present and debate papers in the friendly atmosphere of our philosophy 'club'.

Please do consider presenting a paper. It's a great way of getting other people's opinions on your ideas and arguments. Those who have presented previously have commented on how much they enjoyed the experience and learned from it. You don't have to be a world expert on causation! But you must have a keen interest and an ability to present your ideas clearly.

By popular request, this year's theme is Causation. It's an important topic because how we think about causation has profound implications for our understanding of science, reality, human behaviour, and morality.

Aristotle distinguished between four ways in which something can be said to be a cause. Following Aristotle, some philosophers maintain that causes are real features of the natural world which exist independently of human thought. Others believe that causation is a human (and maybe animal) concept which we project upon the world. Yet others claim that the changes we see in the natural world are caused by, and are evidence for, God.

Here are a few (of the many) questions to consider:

  • What does experience allow us to know about cause and effect?

  • Is the principle of uniformity in nature (causation) an irreducible feature of the world independent of our thoughts about it?

  • Why might we consider that the constant conjunction of certain pairs of events (e.g. application of heat and boiling of water) is evidence for a causal link between those events, yet not between other pairs, such as night and day?

  • What kinds of entities are causes and effects? Are they events, objects, substances, properties, facts or something else?

  • Can absences be causes? Consider the statements: 'the absence of water caused the crops to wilt'; 'they died because of poor sanitation'; 'inadequate drainage contributed to the flooding'.

  • What is the relationship between causation and the laws of nature?

  • To what extent (if any) is causation in legal contexts different from causation outside the law, for example in science or everyday life?

  • Must causation be a physical relationship?

  • Is there a first cause (God)?

  • Does every event have a cause?

  • If we agree that X would not have happened if Y had not occurred, can we conclude that Y was the cause (or a cause) of X?

  • How is causation related to determinism, the thesis that everything which happens is determined or fixed by earlier happenings?

  • Must causation involve necessity or regularity?

If you are interested in giving a talk addressing one of the above questions or another aspect of causation, please email a (working) title and a very brief, preliminary indication of the content to me at [email protected] by 10th April. Each speaker has a slot of 25-30 mins followed by 20 minutes discussion.

Suggested readings:

  • Aristotle's views on Causation are discussed by Hankinson, R.J. (1995), Philosophy of Science in Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • A good introduction to the problem of Causation is in Lowe, E. J. (2002), A Survey of Metaphysics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Chapters 8-10.

  • A selection of classic papers is presented in Sosa, Ernest, and Tooley, Michael (eds.) (1993) Causation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Also in Crane, Tim, and Farkas, Katlin (eds.) (2006), Metaphysics, a guide and anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Part IV, pp.369-432

  • Making a Difference: Essays on the Philosophy of Causation, ed. Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock, Huw Price (2017), Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • For a collection of essays on the counter-factual theory of causation see Collins, J., Hall, Ned, and Paul, Laurie (eds.) (2004), Causation and Counterfactuals, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

  • Hume, David, 1975, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, orig. 1748. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  • Mackie, J. L., 1974, The Cement of the Universe, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Mumford, Stephen, and Anjum, Rani Lil, (2014) A Very Short Introduction to Causation, Oxford University Press

  • Mumford, Stephen, and Anjum, Rani Lil, (2011) Getting Causes from Powers, Oxford University Press

  • Stathis Psillos, (2002) Causation and Explanation, Stocksfield (UK) Acumen

Remember Philsoc members are entitled to borrow books from the Rewley House library.

For Internet resources:

Wishing you all the very best,

Fauzia Rahman-Greasley