Richard Wright, ‘The Ness Account of Natural Causation: A Response to Criticisms’

The NESS (necessary element of a sufficient set) account of natural (scientific, ‘actual’, ‘factual’) causation is usually acknowledged to be a more satisfactory and comprehensive account than the traditional sine qua non (‘but for’) account. However, objections have been raised to the claim that the NESS account fully captures the concept of natural causation and properly handles all types of situations. Various types of counter-examples have been proposed. More fundamentally, it is argued that the NESS account is viciously circular, since causal terminology often is used in its elaboration and it relies upon the concept of causal laws.

Many of the objections raised against the NESS account assume that it is essentially the same as Herbert Hart’s and Tony Honoré’s ‘causally relevant factor’ account and John Mackie’s INUS account. In section II of this chapter I distinguish these three accounts, which differ in important ways that make the latter two accounts vulnerable to objections to which the NESS account is immune, and I offer an account of causal laws that I believe rebuts the claim that the NESS account is viciously circular. In section III I argue that the NESS account handles properly the various types of situations that have been raised as alleged counter-examples to its comprehensive validity.

Wright, Richard W., The Ness Account of Natural Causation: A Response to Criticisms (July 1, 2011). PERSPECTIVES ON CAUSATION, Chapter 14, R. Goldberg, ed., Hart Publishing, 2011.

First posted 2011-09-03 13:58:59

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