Philosophical Studies

, Volume 152, Issue 2, pp 167–179 | Cite as

Causal reasoning



The main focus of this paper is the question as to what it is for an individual to think of her environment in terms of a concept of causation, or causal concepts, in contrast to some more primitive ways in which an individual might pick out or register what are in fact causal phenomena. I show how versions of this question arise in the context of two strands of work on causation, represented by Elizabeth Anscombe and Christopher Hitchcock, respectively. I then describe a central type of reasoning that, I suggest, a subject has to be able to engage in, if we are to credit her with causal concepts. I also point out that this type of reasoning turns on the idea of a physical connection between cause and effect, as articulated in recent singularist approaches of causation.


Causal reasoning Causal models Singular causation Concepts 



Many of the ideas in this paper go back to discussions I have had with Teresa McCormack, who introduced me to the psychological literature on children’s causal reasoning. I have also benefited a great deal from comments and suggestions by Stephen Butterfill, Monika Dullstein, Naomi Eilan, Hemdat Lerman, Guy Longworth, Johannes Roessler, Matthew Soteriou and an anonymous referee for the journal. Work on this paper was carried out within the context of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Project on Causal Understanding, and some of it while I held a Research Leave Grant from the AHRC.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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