Causality and Causation:
The Inadequacy of the Received View

Menno Hulswit

University of Nijmegen

P.O. Box 9102

6500 HC, Nijmegen, The Netherlands


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The attempt to 'analyze' causation seems to have reached an impasse; the proposals on hand seem so widely divergent that one wonders whether they are all analyses of one and the same concept. (Kim 1995: 112).

The objective of this article is twofold: (1) to point out that the current theories of causation are radically inadequate, (2) to show the histor­ical roots of this inadequacy.

The structure of this article is as follows: first, I will give a general sketch of the most important contemporary approaches to causation. Next, in the second part, I will briefly discuss the historical development of the concept of cause; I will show that the history of the concept of cause reveals a complex evolution marked by two decisive milestones: (I) the Aristotelian (-scholastic) Conception, and (II) the Scientific Conception, which are two mutually incompatible conceptions. In the third part, I will discuss some fundamental presuppositions of the received view regard­ing causation. I will show that this view is inadequate in several respects, and that this inadequacy is (partly) due to the failure to recognize the historical roots of concepts related to causation. More particularly, it will be shown that the received view is based upon two incompatible categoreal frameworks, which have their origin in, respectively, Aristotle's philosophy and the seventeenth century scientific worldview. Finally, in the fourth part, I will summarize the obtained results.

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