## Wednesday, August 29, 2018

### Partial causation and causeless events

1. If ordinary events can happen without any cause at all, they can happen with a partial cause and no full cause.

2. A partial cause is a part of a full cause.

3. Nothing can happen with a partial cause and no full cause.

4. So, ordinary events cannot happen causelessly.

The argument for (2) is that (2) is the most obvious way to define a partial cause.

The argument for (1) is as follows. Suppose you and I lift a sofa in world w1 in such a way that the exertion of each of us only partly explains the rising of the sofa, as neither exertion is enough to cause the rising. If ordinary events can happen without any cause at all, there is a world w2 where the sofa rises causelessly, with neither you nor I doing anything. But if w1 and w2 are possible, likewise a world w3 is possible where only I exert myself just as in w1 and you sit back and the sofa rises in response to my exertion, and nothing else causally impacts the sofa’s rising. Since my exertion is not enough to cause the rising of the sofa in w1, and in w3 I exert myself to the same degree, my exertion is no more a full cause of the sofa’s rising in w3 than it is in w1. Hence, in w3, I partially causes the sofa to rise, without there being a full cause, just as the consequent of (1) claims.

If I were inclined to deny (4), I would want to argue that (2) is not the right way to define a partial cause. But I don’t know a better way.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

What would happen to the sofa in w3 without you exertion? If, e.g. the sofa would not move at all, then in w3 your exertion is enough to cause the raising of the sofa, so you have a full cause.
If the sofa would move, then your exertion wouild be a full cause of the sofa rising higher than it would have without your effort. That is, the sofa would "spontaneously" rise up to a certain level and your would be the full cuase of it rising further.
If the sofa would move in exactly the same way whether you try to lift it or not, then your exertion doesn't cause anything at all, not even partially.
So, I would deny (1).

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's an interesting question. Suppose it wouldn't move at all. I don't think it follows in w3 your exertion is enough to cause the raising of the sofa. It's enough to half-cause it.

Walter Van den Acker said...

If the sofa is raised and it would not moved at all without my exertion , then obviously my exertion is enough to cause the raising of the sofa.

Red said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Red said...

I really like this argument but What exactly are "ordinary" events?