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Regularity Accounts of Causation and the Problem of Pre-emption: Dark Prospects Indeed

Cei Maslen
Erkenntnis (1975-)
Vol. 77, No. 3 (November 2012), pp. 419-434
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23356775
Page Count: 16
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Abstract

In this paper I examine a recent argument that regularity approaches to causation can easily solve the problem of pre-emption. If this argument were successful it would neatly solve the problem of pre-emption—a problem that many still consider to be a central unsolved problem for accounts of causation. The argument is surprising in that the conclusion goes against the common consensus that regularity accounts of causation cannot solve the problem of pre-emption, at least without major amendments. This consensus was one of the reasons for the decline in popularity of the regularity approach and the rise in popularity (for a few decades at least) of the counterfactual approach. In its fullest form the recent argument is due to Strevens (Causation and explanation, topics in contemporary philosophy. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2007). He claims, "Mackie's account supplies, without any of the complex amendments now standard in counterfactual theories, a completely satisfactory treatment of the standard cases of pre-emption". This paper examines this argument and refutes it. I argue that Mackie's account really does fail to solve the problem of pre-emption; it fails to account for even the standard cases of pre-emption in the literature.

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