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Stephen Yablo

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199266487

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199266487.001.0001

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Cause and Essence

Cause and Essence

Chapter:
(p.59) 3 Cause and Essence
Source:
Things
Author(s):

Stephen Yablo (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199266487.003.0004

Some essential properties are of course causal, as it is essential to footprints to have been caused by feet. But this chapter is less in causation's role in essence than the reverse: the bearing a thing's essence has on its causal powers. That essence might be causally relevant is hinted already by the counterfactual element in causation; and the hint is confirmed by the explanation essence offers of something otherwise mysterious, namely, how events exactly alike in every ordinary respect, like the bolt's suddenly snapping and its snapping per se, manage to disagree in what they cause. Some prior difference must exist between these events to make their causal powers unlike. Paradoxically, though, it can only be in point of a property, suddenness, which both events possess in common. Only by postulating a difference in the manner — essential or accidental — of the property's possession is the paradox resolved. Next, we need an account of causation in which essence plays an explicit determinative role. That account, based on the idea that causes should be commensurate with their effects, is that x causes y only if nothing essentially poorer would have done, and nothing essentially richer was needed.

Keywords:   causation, cause, effect, epiphenomenalism, mind-body problem, essence, proportionality, events, counterfactuals

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