Transitivity and the ontology of causation

  • Nicholas Unwin


It is argued that it is very hard to analyse causation in such a way that prevents everything from causing everything else. This is particularly true if we assume that the causal relation is transitive, for it all too often happens that causal chains that we wish to keep separate pass through common intermediate events. It is also argued that treating causes as aspects of events, rather than the events themselves, will not solve this problem. This is because aspects have to be highly disjunctive, and disjunctive conditions tend to undermine causal connections, a fact that is most clearly seen when causation is analysed in terms of INUS conditions. It is concluded that reductive analyses of causation do not work, and that transitivity can only be guaranteed in cases where the elements of the causal chain constitute an independently understood causal process.

South African Journal of Philosophy 2014, 33(1): 101–111

Author Biography

Nicholas Unwin
Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YL,UK

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0258-0136