Volume 7, 2000
Regularity, Conditionality, and Asymmetry in Causation
In this paper I explore the relationship between the “Humean” regularity view of causation, the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect, and the asymmetry of causation—the principle that if an event e1 causes e2, then it is false that e2 causes e1. I argue that the regularity view, in combination with the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect, is inconsistent with the asymmetry of causation, and that the inconsistency can be removed by a modification of the view that a cause is a necessary condition of its effect that captures what is plausible in that view. I defend Hume, then, against the objection that he cannot accommodate a cause as being a necessary condition of its effect without absurdly denying the asymmetry of causation. This is only a limited defense, though, for I do not address the issue on which the tenability of the regularity view ultimately depends: viz., whether it can distinguish between causal laws and accidental generalizations without appealing to natural necessity.