Causal talk is ubiquitous in every day life, but it has proved remarkably difficult to give a philosophical account of just what it is for one thing to cause another.

The modern discussion was started by Hume, who suggested all three of the main types of account, while claiming that they were all the same.


Hume's discussion of causation can be found in Hume 1739, Book I, Part III, sections I-VI, XIV.


Constant Conjunction

C causes E if E occurs whenever C does.


C causes E if E would not have happened if C hadn't.


C causes E if the mind is moved to consider E whenever it becomes aware of C. This is not a popular position at present.


There is no such thing as causation.


These problems affect all accounts, some more so than others.

Common Cause

If E and F are both caused by C, but do not cause each other, then our account should not say that E does cause F.


If C caused E, and D could have, but didn't, then our account should say that C does cause E and D does not.

Probabilistic Causation

Cases in which E might, or might not, happen, no matter what causes are present.