Theses Doctoral

The Dispositional Theory of Causation

Al-Witri, Fahad Zakaria

The dissertation offers a dispositional theory of causation. When a stone is thrown at a vase causing it to shatter, the stone acts as stimulus to the vase’s fragility. The analysis developed from this basic identity of cause and stimulus is defended against counterexamples and problem cases from the causation literature. Grounding causation in what is immanent in interacting objects is shown to yield a more satisfactory theory of causation than prevalent deflationary accounts that appeal to possible worlds, pattern-conformation, or statistical regularities. Most recent work on causation focuses exclusively on physics and metaphysics; the dissertation explores the ramifications for ethics following from a dispositional theory of causation. Consider so-called “causation by omission”: the vase, teetering on a shelf, falls to the ground and shatters; you could have caught it, but you didn’t. Was it your failure to catch the vase that caused it to shatter? The dispositional theory identifies the impact, and not your omission to catch it, as the cause or stimulus. Regardless of whether one’s act is the cause of the breakage, one may still be held responsible for failing to act in a given away. Why is this so and what does it tell us about causation?


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Collins, John D.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 10, 2016