Causal Realism: Events and Processes

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    Minimally, causal realism (as understood here) is the view that accounts of causation in terms of mere, regular or probabilistic conjunction are unsatisfactory, and that causal phenomena are correctly associated with some form of de re necessity. Classic arguments, however, some of which date back to Sextus Empiricus and have appeared many times since, including famously in Russell, suggest that the very notion of causal realism is incoherent. In this paper I argue that if such objections seem compelling, it is only because everyday expressions concerning causal phenomena are misleading with respect to certain metaphysical details. These expressions generally make reference to the relations of events or states of affairs, but ignore or obscure the role played by causal properties. I argue that on a proposed alternative, an analysis in terms of causal processes, more refined descriptions of causal phenomena escape the charge of incoherence. Causal necessity is here located in the relations of causal properties. I distinguish this view from the recent process theories of Salmon and Dowe, which are disinterested in causal realism.