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Of Humean Bondage

Hitchcock, Christopher (2003) Of Humean Bondage. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 54 (1). pp. 1-25. ISSN 0007-0882. doi:10.1093/bjps/54.1.1.

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There are many ways of attaching two objects together: for example, they can be connected, linked, tied or bound together; and the connection, link, tie or bind can be made of chain, rope, or cement. Every one of these binding methods has been used as a metaphor for causation. What is the real significance of these metaphors? They express a commitment to a certain way of thinking about causation, summarized in the following thesis: ‘In any concrete situation, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether two events are in fact bound by the causal relation. It is the aim of philosophical inquiry to analyze this objective relation.’ Through a variety of examples, I hope to cast doubt on this seemingly innocuous thesis. The problem lies not with the word ‘objective’, but with the word ‘the’. The goal of a philosophical account of causation should not be to capture the causal relation, but rather to capture the many ways in which the events of the world can be bound together.

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Additional Information:© 2003 British Society for the Philosophy of Science. I would like to thank Charles Daniels, Alan Hájek, Laurie Paul, Jonathan Schaffer, Jim Woodward, and audience members at the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Washington and Pittsburg. This paper was originally written for a workshop at the University of Pittsburgh in November of 2000. The workshop was held in honor of Wesley Salmon on the occasion of his retirement. It was the last time I saw him prior his tragic death in April 2001. He specifically requested a small workshop, where the papers were not to focus on his work, but on new work in his areas of expertise. At the end of the conference, he told the audience that his intention was to demonstrate that it was safe for him to retire; upon hearing the papers, however, he declared a renewed desire to continue his own work. These comments were a testament to his humility and generosity of spirit. To merely thank him for comments on this paper would be a grave injustice; as my mentor, friend, and role model, he will continue to have a profound influence on everything I write.
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Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20111028-141911914
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Official Citation:Christopher Hitchcock Of Humean Bondage Br J Philos Sci (2003) 54(1): 1-25 doi:10.1093/bjps/54.1.1
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:27499
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:28 Oct 2011 21:53
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 16:49

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