Fundamental causation

Indeed, virtually all the theorists who have rejected both events and facts have done so because they think that the relata must be immanent and thus not facts, but fine-grained and thus not events.

Fundamental causation

Reviewed by John T. Roberts, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill In this fascinating and carefully constructed book, Douglas Kutach offers new solutions to two central problems in the intersection of philosophy of science and metaphysics.

One is about causation, and how to resolve the tension between three competing demands: If we think of causation as gold, then how does it get spun out of fundamental-physical straw?

Fundamental causation

The second problem is that of how physics should be used to inform metaphysics. Kutach offers a novel and plausible answer, which he calls by the deceptively bland name "empirical analysis. Empirical Analysis Kutach gives his official definition of "empirical analysis" on p.

Physics, Metaphysics, and the Deep Structure of the World, 1st Edition

The empirical analysis of X is the engineering of a conceptual framework optimized in the service of the scientific explanation of whatever empirical phenomena motivate our possession of a concept of X, especially insofar as they are characterized in terms of experiments.

In the pages that immediately follow, Kutach provides a discussion that more helpfully conveys what he is getting at, and how it differs from some more familiar sorts of philosophical project. You start with the X -- the topic of your analysis, in this case causation -- and a great big set of relatively uncontroversial truths about X platitudes.

Fundamental causation

Your task is to make sense of what X could be, in the light of all these uncontroversial truths about it and of what else we know about the world.

In what Kutach calls "orthodox analysis" which seems to include both old-fashioned a priori conceptual analysis as well as the kind of Ramsey-sentence-inspired approach championed by Lewis, in which one uses a priori means to identify the role played by the referent of a concept, and then uses empirical means to identify the filler of that roleone sets out to find necessary and sufficient conditions for the Fundamental causation that will make as many of the platitudes as possible come out true.

Since most of the philosophically interesting concepts have relatively uncontroversial truths about them that pull in different directions, it always turns Fundamental causation to be impossible to get all of them right; one must sacrifice some of the putative uncontroversial truths in order to get an analysis that elegantly accounts for the rest of them.

But, Kutach complains, orthodox analysis has no principled way of weighing these putative uncontroversial truths against one another and deciding what to sacrifice for the sake of what p. Kutach aims to do better.

A Kutachian empirical analysis aims at facilitating the scientific explanation of why we have the concept X in the first place. The first order of business is to identify those empirical phenomena that make it helpful for creatures like us to have a concept of X.

If possible, these empirical phenomena are to be regimented as experiments that have been found to have characteristic results. The next task is to identify those elements of fundamental reality that can be used to explain why these experiments typically come out the way they do.

These aspects of fundamental reality, together with the derivative realities they give rise to, that appear in those explanations, are then what makes it useful for us to have a concept of X -- and even if it does not follow that they will make good candidates for what we ordinarily refer to when we speak of X, it does follow that it makes sense to think of them as the X-like features of reality which ultimately explain why we get on so well speaking of X.

Once we have done this, Kutach believes, we are finished doing the metaphysics of X. This will leave a lot of work to be done in explaining why we say and think the particular things we do about X -- about why we readily assent to all the putative truths in the great big set of X-platitudes. But the remaining work calls for a psychological explanation -- one that will presumably be facilitated by the metaphysics we have given, but that is not itself properly part of metaphysics which Kutach defines as "the general study of reality" p.

The resulting package-deal of a metaphysics together with a psychological explanation might render many X-platitudes false. It will have done its job so long as it explains, in terms of fundamental reality, why it is useful for us to have the concept of X in the first place, and then explains why we tend to say the things about X that we do.

What an effective strategy does, in Kutach's preferred terminology, is to promote an outcome, and when Kutach regiments the phenomenon of the existence of effective strategies into an experiment, he arrives at what he calls the promotion experiment. Another is the fact that we find we can promote outcomes in the future but not the past.

Kutach regiments this fact as the asymmetry experiment. It goes like this leaving out some details; see pp. The usual outcome of the experiment is that E occurs no more frequently for subjects on team DO than it does for subjects on team DONT.

The task for a metaphysics of causation, then, is to identify the features of fundamental reality that are responsible for these experimental facts, which is in turn responsible for the fact that it is so useful to us to think of our world as causally structured.

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Carrying out this task does not require us to hew closely to the surface grammar of ordinary causal discourse: It does not matter ultimately whether 'causation' is a term appropriately applied to the fundamental causation-like relations or whether there are 'causes' in physics.

The important task is to uncover which fundamental structures serve as an adequate foundation for the scientific explanation of empirical phenomena that motivate causal terminology. They are both relations that hold among fundamental events where a fundamental event is, roughly, a region of space-time together with the values of one or more fundamental physical quantities throughout that region.

The first is termining: The second is contributing: Fundamental events and the terminance and contribution relations among them belong to fundamental reality, but the causation-like phenomena we find in higher-level phenomena belong to what Kutach calls "derivative reality.Link and Phelan () developed the theory of fundamental causes to explain why the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and mortality has persisted despite radical changes in the diseases and risk factors that are presumed to explain it.

They proposed that the enduring association results because SES embodies an array of .

Causation and Its Basis in Fundamental Physics - Douglas Kutach - Oxford University Press

In social psychology, fundamental attribution error, also known as correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the concept that, in contrast to interpretations of their own behavior, people tend to emphasize the agent's internal characteristics, rather than external factors, in explaining other people's behavior.

This effect has been described as "the tendency . causation merges the two ideas, as when people say, for example, either that the passer-by did not cause the child's drowning, or that the ac- countant's omission did cause the firm's ruin.

Social causation of disease is defined as the origin of illness that results from social conditions and social interactions. This definition assumes that human biological factors are not the sole cause of disease.


According to Link and Phelan, a fundamental social cause of health inequalities has four key components: The cause influences multiple disease outcomes The cause affects disease outcomes through multiple risk factors.

Fundamental causes are structural factors that are the root source of multiple disease outcomes. These fundamental causes often influence health outcomes by way of their contribution to multiple risk factors.

Theory of fundamental causes - Wikipedia