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If I didn't make it happen, could I still have caused it to happen?
Consider these three examples arguments. 1. Take a case where this is true: There was heavy rain in April and electrical storms in the following two months; and in June the lightning took hold and started a forest fire. If it hadn’t been for the heavy rain in April, the forest would have caught fire in May. Add Lombard’s thesis to that, and you get If the April rain hadn’t occurred the forest fire wouldn’t have occurred. Interpret that in terms of the counterfactual analysis and you get The April rains caused the forest fire. That is unacceptable. A good enough theory of events and of causation might give us reason to accept some things that seem intuitively to be false, but no theory should persuade us that delaying a forest’s burning for a month (or indeed for a minute) is causing a forest fire. 2. Suppose that Jones lives in a very dangerous neighborhood, and that one evening Smith attempts to stab him to death. Jones is saved because of the action of Brown who frightens Smith off. However, a year later, Jones is shot to death by the persistent Smith. So, if Brown’s action had not occurred, Jones’s death due to the shooting would not have occurred, since he would have died of stab wounds a year earlier. But, I find it intuitively quite unacceptable to suppose that Brown’s action was a cause of Jones’s dying as a result of gunshot a year later. 3. It is one thing to postpone an event, another to cancel it. A cause without which it would have occurred later, or sooner, is not a cause without which it would not have occurred at all. Who would dare be a doctor, if the hypothesis under consideration [that an event’s time is essential to it] were right? You might manage to keep your patient alive until 4:12, when otherwise he would have died at 4:08. You would then have caused his death. For his death was, in fact, his death at 4:12. If that time is essential, his death is an event that would not have occurred had he died at 4:08, as he would have done without your action. That will not do. Something is wrong. These are examples of causation, in some sense, but in some other they are not. That is the topic of this week's essay, by Ned Hall, "Two Concepts of Causation".

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Philosophy 184 is a seminar devoted to academic philosophy, liberated from the academy itself. We meet weekly, as friends, at a cafe in San Francisco for a few hours to discuss assigned readings, and bravely peer into each other's intellect. We also tell jokes.

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