Problem of Causation

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The problem of causation with respect to fact constructivism questions how can our descriptions cause the existence of things like mountains, whose existence seems to come before ours? For example, let’s think of a disease. There are known, accepted facts about meningitis. These facts cause other facts, such as what it does to your spine and brain, as well as its ability to be contagious, to be true. According to fact constructivists, these facts came out in the 1900s when experts first learned about meningitis. However, if someone died from meningitis before the 1900s, it still would be from the facts that cause the things to happen, such as the fever and headaches. Therefore, the facts that caused someone to be affected by meningitis are true, and were prevalent before the 1900s. So the obvious problem with causation is that certain facts are true, and were true even before they were discover, such as the facts of meningitis because it is impossible to claim that facts are only true after they have been discovered.

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The conceptual competence problem with fact constructivism states that competence with concepts, such as the existence of electrons, does not seem to depend on us. Boghossian states that asking experts is the best way to find out about these concepts. And when you ask, they will specifically say that we do not depend on such concepts and ideas. It is impossible to claim that certain things, like electrons, which are independent of us, depend on our descriptions. The experts will explain in detail how certain things were created and demonstrate that they were created well before we did the facts for an object.

The traditional argument says that global relativism is disjointed and inconsistent because any relativistic thesis requires at least some absolute truths, but global relativism says that there are no absolute truths. Relativism stats that the fact “there are not absolute facts” is a relative fact. This fact is relativistic, therefore, and is not an argument for relativism. We should not worry about this because accepting this statement is relative to our own system. Boghossian looks at a version that Nagel argues that there are no absolute truths or standards of justification for traditional epistemological relativists. The affirmation of the relativist view is offered as an absolute truth that violates their relativism or is offered as relative truths that do not combat the absolutism that they originally intended to deny. Boghossian does not agree with the traditional argument because he stats that the idea that relativism is only true in relation to a theory is not clear and that he believes that relativism can be true of a theory that both relativists and non- relativists accept.

To understand the acceptance problem, let’s look at an hypothetical Epistemic system called “S”. S states that:

  • I set visual evidence that there is a dog in the room
  • If set visual evidence that there is a dog in the room, then you’re justified in believing there is a dog in the room.
  • I am justified in believed there is a dog in the room.

Relativism states that S is incorrect because there are no objectively justified statements and one of the things that implied this belief of a dog in the room is therefore false. It is no the evidence, but rather the principle. Relativism encourages our epistemic systems to incorporate principles like S, but also leads them to believe that principles such as S are wrong. This example of a confusing and unclear way of thinking suggests that there are actually restrictions. Clearness of thinking, for example, is where our epistemic systems must meet. Boghossian says that we should not accept general judgments about what confirms certain things, but rather base our decisions on our own epistemic systems and acceptances.

First, we must understand the “no arbitrary distinctions principle”. This principle, according to Boghossian, states that

  • If an epistemic system proposes to treat two propositions p and q according to distinct epistemic principles, it must recognize some epistemically relevant difference between p and q.
  • If an epistemic system proposes to treat two propositions p and q according to the same epistemic principles, it must not recognize any epistemically relevant difference between p and q.

This principle is saying that if we encountered any other epistemic system fundamentally different to ours, we would not be able to justify our system over it. The alternative system has to be at least coherent for it to compare with our own. However, if we did find a coherent epistemic system that is different to ours, we would have to accept it. If we found a system that is different but not valid according the “coherence standards”, we would have a hard time believing it. Consider the Epistemic system below,

  1. If an expert tells you that smoking is dangerous, then you’re justified in believing smoking is dangerous.
  2. If an expert tells you that humans are contributing to climate change, than it’s not the case that you’re justified in believing that humans are contributing to climate change.

In order to be considered a coherent epistemic system, a certain degree of uniformity must be achieved, taking into account the beliefs of certain proposals. The above systems distinguish between statements. Boghossian says the “coherent argument’ is too strong and people are too strong and that people do not need to prove their own epistemic system and that they have their own independent should be able to answer to the question of what I believe is answered differently based on their own, coherent, system. 

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Problem of Causation. (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved January 28, 2023 , from
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