How do causes depend on us? The many faces of perspectivalism

Jenann Ismael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Huw Price has argued that on an interventionist account of cause the distinction is perspectival, and the claim prompted some interesting responses from interventionists and in particular an exchange with Woodward that raises questions about what it means to say that one or another structure is perspectival. I’ll introduce his reasons for claiming that the distinction between cause and effect on an interventionist account is perspectival. Then I’ll introduce a distinction between different ways in which a class of concepts can be said to depend on facts about their users. Three importantly different forms of dependence will emerge from the discussion: (1) Pragmatic dependence on us: truth conditions for x-beliefs can be given by a function f(Formula presented.) of more fundamental physical structures making no explicit reference to human agents. But there are any other number of functions ((Formula presented.)) ontologically on a par with x and what explains the distinguished role f plays in our practical and epistemic lives are facts about us. (2) Implicit relativization: truth conditions for x-beliefs are relative to agent or context; the context supplies the value of a hidden parameter (’hidden’ in the sense that it is not explicitly represented in the surface syntax) that determines the truth of x-beliefs. (3) Indexicals: like implicit relativization except that the surface syntax contains a term whose semantic value is context-dependent. I suggest that Price’s insights are best understood in the first way. This will draw a crucial disanalogy with his central examples of perspectival concepts, but it will refine the thesis in a way that is more faithful to what his arguments show. The refined thesis will also support generalization to other concepts, and clarify the foundations of the quite distinctive research program that Price has been developing for a number of years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-267
Number of pages23
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Causation
  • Huw Price
  • Interventionism
  • Perspective
  • Temporal direction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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