3 From Explanation to Causation

Thus far, I have defended versions of Davidson's event analysis and Frege's approach to propositional attitude ascriptions. In this chapter, I combine these proposals, and offer a thesis about how causation is related to explanation: event C caused event E if a true thought about C (in a sense of 'about' to be characterized) explains a true thought about E, where true thoughts—the senses of true sentences—are facts. After motivating this thesis, I use it to sketch an account of how some events could have non-neural mental causes. This sketch is filled out in later chapters. But here, my goal is to connect appeals to events and senses in a way that draws attention to a certain conception of causation.


1 Explainers and Causes

Like many others, I think causation is primarily a relation between events, while explanation is primarily a relation between facts. But I do not say that only events can be causes (or effects). Perhaps other entities, like states or facts, can be relata of causal relations (see Mellor 1995). Similarly, perhaps facts are not the only relata of explanatory relations. Speakers certainly use 'cause' and 'explain' in a hodgepodge of ways. And it is not my aim to characterize the extension of these terms. For present purposes, I only need relatively modest claims: we have a concept of causation that is a concept of a relation between events, which are individuated non-intentionally; and we have a concept of explanation that is a concept of a relation between facts, which are individuated intentionally. I will be defending a sufficient condition for event causation, not a necessary condition on the truth of 'x caused y'; and I will be concerned only with a particular species of explanation, viz. explanations relating facts that are about particular events. Still, even the modest claims are not trivial. So they warrant some discussion.


1.1

Suppose, recalling the example from Chapter 2 , that Nora hears a dog called 'Fido' barking every night. Nora also sees (but never hears) a dog

-89-

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Causing Actions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Causing Actions iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Actions as Inner Causes 18
  • 2: Fregean Innocence 55
  • 3: From Explanation to Causation 89
  • 4: Other Things Being Equal 117
  • 5: Personal Dualism 147
  • 6: Modal Concerns 179
  • 7: Natural Causes 216
  • Appendix 246
  • References 260
  • Index 271
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