Causality of Omissions

Project leader:
Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schurz (Düsseldorf)
& Prof. Dr. Markus Stepanians (Bern)

Postdoctoral fellow:
Dr. David Hommen (Düsseldorf)

Metaphysical theories of causation generally assume that causes must be constituted of actions, events or changes of state of a positive nature as opposed to the mere absence of such items. The project explores various ways in which negative actions (omissions, forbearances) and negative events (absences) might be integrated into a metaphysics of causation. Such an integration seems desirable not only because causal categories are routinely applied, if only implicitly, to negative actions and events in everyday and scientific talk but also because of the necessity to give a basis to the attribution, under certain specific conditions, of moral and legal responsibility for omissions. Any attempt at integrating negative causes has, however, to confront the dilemma that the introduction of negative causes either tends to inflate the quantity of factors causally relevant to a given event or else has to be limited by pragmatic relevance principles alien to the purity of a metaphysical theory.