Domino cascade

During Michaelmas (Autumn) Term 2016 I gave a series of lectures on causation. This is a fascinating subject. Causation is one of the most fundamental relationship most of us ever deal with. We have myriad causal beliefs, so fundamental we are not even aware of them (unless they go wrong). So we believe that flipping the switch will cause the light to go on, that posting a letter will result in its receipt by the one to whom it was written…..

If you click on the link for each week you’ll find the podcasts. If you click on the ‘lecture notes’ link the notes should download immediately.

Week one: Regularity Theory

Lecture notes for lecture one: Lecture one


Causation versus Correlation

Week two: The Counterfactual Theory of Causation

Lecture notes for Lecture two:

Week three: The Necessary Connection Analysis of Causation

Lecture notes for Lecture three:

Week four: The Singularist Theory of Causation

Lecture notes for Lecture four

Week five: Time and Causation


David Hume

Lecture notes for Lecture Five

Week six: Mental Causation

Lecture notes for Lecture Six:


About Marianne

Marianne is Director of Studies in Philosophy at Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education
This entry was posted in Podcasts, The Causation Lectures and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Causation

  1. Safwan says:

    There is a difference between a ’cause’ and a ‘condition’. A seed of plant has a program in its DNA which causes its growth, provided that conducive soil conditions are met. The same seed, having a potential to become the cause for a future tree – is not sufficient for the event. The event is cause-condition-dependant. The troika of Cause-Condition-Effect is one occurrence characterising what we call an “event”.

  2. Pingback: Causation « Suefew's Philosophy Blog

  3. Vijay Shares says:

    Can you please paraphrase the following sentence which states how trumping problem is problematic for Lewis’s first theory of causation:
    “There is no chain of counterfactual dependencies, furthermore, that leads back from the soldiers’ advancing to the major’s order that isn’t precisely matched by a chain of counterfactual dependencies leading back from the soldiers’ advancing to the sergeant’s order.”

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Vijay, I am not sure how to paraphrase it in a way that doesn’t repeat it! The idea is that when both the major and the sergeant shout ‘advance’, the soldiers advance But was the cause of their advancing the major’s order or the sergeant’s? Well, military law says that soldiers should always obey the superior officer, so it was the major’s order that caused their advance. But it is nevertheless true that had the major not shouted ‘advance’ the soldiers would nevertheless have advanced because the sergeant shouted ‘advance’.

      So this is a cause of ‘pre-emptive trumping’ and the situation described is a problem for the counterfactual theory of causation. You can read more about it here: Schaffer, J., 2000a. “Trumping Preemption”, Journal of Philosophy, 9: 165–81

  4. Karel says:

    In your fourth lesson, you also talk about the concept of causality in science and in the case of folk.
    Because I have been dealing with entomology all my life, the question of the concept of causality in determining certain species of butterflies is important to me. In my opinion, the concept of the science of causality is like a fog, the concept of folk causality is then clear, certain.
    The concept of causality is then for me interested thing when people tell me that I came just in time. I’m having fun with it.

  5. Brian Medlock says:

    Hello Marianne,

    Thank you for your wonderful lectures on Critical Reasoning, and Causation. Both lectures introduced me to the world of Philosophy. As a result of your great introduction, I will start my formal studies in philosophy at a university in the States starting Spring of 2022. I am currently completing my course work in fine art.

    I have worked as an Accountant for over twenty years and have never been excited about the work. My undergraduate degrees in Accounting and Economics never satisfied any fundamental questions I ask myself everyday. However, a short introduction to Philosophy has already given me the ability to at the very least come up with the right questions. Thank you for your work.

    Brian Medlock

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