Volume 2, Issue 2, 2002
Embedded Conditionals as the Essence of Causality?
Counterfactual analysis of causation between particular events, combined with standard semantics for counterfactual conditionals, cannot express the idea that the cause is sufficient for the effect. Several authors have suggested that a more complex pattern of nested counterfactual conditionals is a better candidate for expressing the idea of causal connection. The most systematic account is developed by Kadri Vihvelin. She argues that a complex pattern of causal dependence, expressed by embedded conditionals, covers all the cases of causation and still yields an account of causal asymmetry. But the new account relies heavily on the use of backtracking conditionals, and no criterion is given for their evaluation. I will try to show that Vihvelin’s proposal is not superior to the standard account because it overlooks the disadvantages of a liberal theory of causal relata.