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Actual Causation and the Challenge of Purpose

Fischer, Enno (2023) Actual Causation and the Challenge of Purpose. Erkenntnis.


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This paper explores the prospects of employing a functional approach in order to improve our concept of actual causation. Claims of actual causation play an important role for a variety of purposes. In particular, they are relevant for identifying suitable targets for intervention, and they are relevant for our practices of ascribing responsibility. I argue that this gives rise to the challenge of purpose. The challenge of purpose arises when different goals demand adjustments of the concept that pull in opposing directions. More specifically, I argue that a common distinction between certain kinds of preempted and preempting factors is difficult to motivate from an interventionist viewpoint. This indicates that an appropriately revised concept of actual causation would not distinguish between these two kinds of factors. From the viewpoint of retributivist responsibility, however, the distinction between preempted and preempting factors sometimes is important, which indicates that the distinction should be retained.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Fischer, Ennoenno.fischer@rub.de0000-0003-3758-4655
Keywords: Causal Models, Late Preemption, Intervention, Responsibility, Conceptual Engineering
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Depositing User: Enno Fischer
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2023 18:41
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2023 18:41
Item ID: 21709
Journal or Publication Title: Erkenntnis
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s10670-023-00660-z
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Date: 2023

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