Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Causation and entailment

From time to time, one reads the sentiment that if E causes F, then that E occurs does not entail that F occurs. Here is a counterexample. God in a reverberating voice announces that you're going to be terrified. This causes you to be terrified. But that God announces something entails that the announced event will happen.

Here's another example, perhaps less compelling.  I just figured out, by induction, that I'm not going to be silent all day today.  But I am also the sort of the person who can't keep his mouth shut about what he knows.  So I tell you: "Today I am not going to be silent all day."  Then, my knowing that today I wasn't going to be silent all day caused me not to be silent all day.  But it also entailed it.  (Objection: Belief, not knowledge, enters into causal explanations.  Response: We certainly use knowledge talk in causal explanations.  In any case, this is why this example is less compelling than the first.)

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