Wednesday, July 27, 2011

thesis (1.3)

We might want to say that, though a well-accepted definition of "cause" remains elusive, we can still talk about causes of various kinds, and even make general statements which are true regardless of the kinds of causes to which we might choose to apply them. This fact seems fairly well-evident; for even if we have some favorite linguistic or metaphysical account of causality, certainly not everyone agrees, and yet we should like to say that those on both sides of the disagreement are able to understand and affirm true statements about causality. Consider for instance a naive speaker of English who has never considered the question of what precisely constitutes a cause: why should we deny that he can wield the language, which includes such terms as "cause" and "effect"? Surely it is not necessary that a speaker must abstractly analyze his speech before he can successfully use it to communicate; otherwise what shall we say, for instance, of young children who are just beginning to learn to form meaningful sentences? So if we wish to deny that naive speakers can speak meaningfully about causal relations, it seems fair to insist on some other reason than simply that he hasn't bothered to lay out an adequate definition of causality.