Abstract

There are many ways of attaching two objects together: for example, they can be connected, linked, tied or bound together; and the connection, link, tie or bind can be made of chain, rope, or cement. Every one of these binding methods has been used as a metaphor for causation. What is the real significance of these metaphors? They express a commitment to a certain way of thinking about causation, summarized in the following thesis: ‘In any concrete situation, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether two events are in fact bound by the causal relation. It is the aim of philosophical inquiry to analyze this objective relation.’ Through a variety of examples, I hope to cast doubt on this seemingly innocuous thesis. The problem lies not with the word ‘objective’, but with the word ‘the’. The goal of a philosophical account of causation should not be to capture the causal relation, but rather to capture the many ways in which the events of the world can be bound together.

1The metaphors

2Unpacking the metaphors

3Theories of causation

4The two assassins

5The birth control pills

6The smoker‐protector gene

7The bicycle thief

8Further examples

8.1Indeterminism

8.2Probability‐lowering causes

8.3Parts vs wholes

8.4Symmetric overdetermination

8.5Delayers

8.6Causation by omission

8.7Double prevention/disconnection

8.8Preemptive prevention

8.9Quantitative variables

9Conclusion

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