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Causation and ResponsibilityAn Essay in Law, Morals, and Metaphysics$
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Michael S. Moore

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199256860

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199256860.001.0001

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The Lack of any Metaphysical Basis for the Doctrines of Intervening Causation

The Lack of any Metaphysical Basis for the Doctrines of Intervening Causation

Chapter:
(p.254) 12 The Lack of any Metaphysical Basis for the Doctrines of Intervening Causation
Source:
Causation and Responsibility
Author(s):

Michael S. Moore (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199256860.003.0012

This chapter looks at the metaphysical possibilities for making sense of there being (literally) breakers of causal chains. The thesis of the chapter is that nothing in nature answers to the concept of an intervening cause. In particular, human beings do not exercise the kind of free will that could make them fresh causal starts, nor does any god with a taste for the dramatic break causal chains by initiating coincidences. (A related subsidiary thesis is that no artificial construction of legal policy can do the justifying work needed doing to make sense of intervening causation, either.) The upshot is that the direct cause test is not viable, except as a rule of thumb about substantiality of causation.

Keywords:   intervening cause, direct cause, free will, metaphysics, causal chains

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