Is There High-Level Causation?

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Glynn, Luke
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The discovery of high-level causal relations seems a central activity of the special sciences. Those same sciences are less successful in formulating strict laws. If causation must be underwritten by strict laws, we are faced with a puzzle (first noticed by Donald Davidson), which might be dubbed the 'no strict laws' problem for high-level causation. Attempts have been made to dissolve this problem by showing that leading theories of causation do not in fact require that causation be underwritten by strict laws. But this conclusion has been too hastily drawn. Philosophers have tended to equate non-strict laws with ceteris paribus laws. I argue that there is another category of non-strict law that has often not been properly distinguished: namely, (what I will call) minutiae rectus laws. If, as it appears, many special science laws are minutiae rectus laws, then this poses a problem for their ability to underwrite causal relations in a way that their typically ceteris paribus nature does not. I argue that the best prospect for resolving the resurgent 'no strict laws' problem is to argue that special science laws are in fact typically probabilistic (and thus able to support probabilistic causation), rather than being minutiae rectus laws.