By G.H. von Wright
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Additional resources for Causality and Determinism
But I promised an indeterministic example where there are no further features to allow the finegraining strategy to operate. The second, ‘fine-grain the effect’, was also successful in dealing with Counterexample #1, but I promised an example where alternative possible effects are indistinguishable, which would thwart this second strategy. The third, ‘interpolating causal links’, was also successful in dealing with Counterexample #1, but I promised a counterexample where time is discrete and the chancelowering cause and effect occur at immediately adjacent instances, thereby thwarting this third strategy.
Intuitively in our case C is the cause 34 Phil Dowe of F. 1 < ch ~C(F) = 1. But now there is no feature about F which will distinguish the two ways it may have come about. Suppose the upward paths involve an alpha decay and the downward paths a beta decay. The end product of the I–II–IV decay (a IV atom, one alpha particle and one beta particle) is identical to the product of the I–III–IV decay. Perhaps it is possible that there are different energies involved, but it is also possible that all the energies are identical.
I think he must have taken arsenic’, says the doctor, after examination, ‘for he has [such-and-such] symptoms. ’ (Note that in calling the conditional in this inference ‘counterfactual’ we are using the label as a proper name for a form of conditional. There is nothing literally counterfactual about it. ) (2b) The prison warden on his rounds says ‘I think a prisoner escaped from that window, for the flowers below are all squashed. ’ Call this style of inference ‘inference to a good explanation’.