Course description

These lectures will introduce the metaphysics of causation (or causality, or cause and effect). After a brief introduction to the topic, and some historical background, we will consider the concept of causal necessity and then look at David Hume’s view of causation, followed by David Lewis’s counterfactual theory, and the main objections to it.

Online resources

Outlines and handouts will be made available on:

Where and when

Thursday 11-12. Lecture Block Room 4

Lecture 1: The very idea of a cause


Lecture 2: Regularity theories

In this lecture I introduce David Hume’s sceptical approach to causation, and show how it has led the way for regularity theories of causation. There are some problems with such theories. In particular, regularity theories seem to have little to say about the particular events that seem to be fundamental to causal interaction. J.L. Mackie offers an analysis that identifies these particular events as special conditions: INUS conditions. His suggestion is that something is a cause if it is at least an INUS condition for an effect. I close by discussing three problems with Mackie’s theory.


Lecture 3: Counterfactual theories

In this lecture I introduce David Lewis’ framework for thinking about counterfactual conditionals, and show how he applies this framework to a theory of causation. Causal dependence is a relation between distinct events that is defined in terms of counterfactual dependence relations between statements about these events’ occurrence (or absence thereof).


Lecture 4: The problem of redundant causation

In this lecture I continue elaborating David Lewis’ framework for thinking about causation in terms of causal and counterfactual dependence. I discuss the asymmetry and transitivity of causation, and look at cases of overdetermination and pre-emption.