18 Pages

Aristotelian Agent-Causation


What are the relata of the causal relation or the relation of causing? Candidates include events, processes, dispositions, powers, facts, states of affairs, and agents. One of the most successful accounts of causation, in the tradition of Hume, takes the relata to be events and is dubbed “event-causation”. 1

Supporters of this account, event-causalists, are highly suspicious of the assumption that agents could be causes. The idea that an agent, for example, a human person, could cause an effect does not square with event-causation. Of course one cannot deny that in everyday life we constantly speak as if agents cause effects, that, for example, one person causes the death of another by killing her or that a person causes the collapse of a house by blowing it up. But these phrases are taken to be elliptical and reducible to ways of speaking which imply solely event-causation: Alleged causation of events by objects is always reducible to the causation of those events by other events which involve those objects. Consider, for example, “The bomb caused the collapse of the bridge.” It seems plausible to contend that this statement is elliptical, meaning something such as “Some event involving the bomb caused the collapse of the bridge.”