Graded Causation

The aim of this project is develop a theory of degrees of causation. Many contexts seem to imply that causation allows for degrees. For instance, if two companies jointly cause some environmental damage, we are often not only interested in whether they both contributed to the damage, but also in how large their contribution was. Such questions are closely related to questions of responsibility ascription, since it is prima facie plausible to assume that the degree to which agents can be held responsible for an outcome depends, at least to a certain extent, on how much they causally contributed to it. A further crucial question is how to deal with degrees of causation in overdetermination scenarios, since extant theories of degrees of causation typically imply that causal contribution will decrease if more overdetermining causes are present. However, if degrees of causation have an impact on degrees of responsibility, this consequence seems problematic.

The working hypothesis of this project is that an adequate theory of graded causation should satisfy two types of adequacy conditions: (i) conditions stemming from empirical results concerning the relationship between causal and normative judgements, and (ii) conditions imposed by metaphysical considerations concerning the relationship between causation and responsibility. The overarching goal is to develop a quantitative measure of graded causation that takes both types of adequacy conditions into account.



This project is part of the DFG research unit Inductive Metaphysics. Our sub-project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation