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Making a DifferenceEssays on the Philosophy of Causation$
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Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock, and Huw Price

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746911

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198746911.001.0001

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Pragmatic Explanations of the Proportionality Constraint on Causation

Pragmatic Explanations of the Proportionality Constraint on Causation

(p.58) 4 Pragmatic Explanations of the Proportionality Constraint on Causation
Making a Difference

Cei Maslen

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the case for a proportionality constraint on causation. A range of examples seem to show that we prefer causes to be proportional to their effects. To use Yablo and Williamson’s example, when investigating causes of an injury we tend to judge ‘being hit by a red bus’ to be too specific, ‘being hit’ to be too general, and ‘being hit by a bus’ to be about right. In this chapter, some pragmatic explanations of this preference are presented and compared to each other. It is then argued that a version of a contrastivist approach to causation gives the best explanation. Some consequences for mental causation and causal claims at different levels are also discussed.

Keywords:   causation, causal relevance, mental causation, pragmatics, proportionality, Stephen Yablo

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