Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 22, 2017

Meso-level Objects, Powers, and Simultaneous Causation

  • Tobias Hansson Wahlberg EMAIL logo
From the journal Metaphysica


I argue that Mumford and Anjum’s recent theory of simultaneous causation among powerful meso-level objects is problematic in several respects: it is based on a false dichotomy, it is incompatible with standard meso-level physics, it is explanatory deficient, and it threatens to render the powers metaphysics incoherent. Powers theorists are advised, therefore, to adopt a purely sequential conception of causation.


I am very grateful to two anonymous reviewers for Metaphysica for their helpful comments and constructive criticisms. An early draft of the paper was presented at the Higher Seminar in Theoretical Philosophy at Lund University, May 2016 – thanks to the participants for valuable feedback. The writing of the paper was funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, grant number P15-0744:1.


Armstrong, D.M. 1983. What Is a Law of Nature?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9781316499030Search in Google Scholar

Armstrong, D.M. 1997. A World of States of Affairs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511583308Search in Google Scholar

Aronson, J. 1971. “The Legacy of Hume’s Analysis of Causation.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 2 (2):135–156.10.1016/0039-3681(71)90028-8Search in Google Scholar

Benson, H. 1995. University Physics, revised ed.. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Search in Google Scholar

Bird, A. 2007. Nature’s Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199227013.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Brentano, F. 1988. Philosophical Investigations on Space, Time and the Continuum. London: Croom Helm.Search in Google Scholar

Chakravartty, A. 2013. “Getting Causes from Powers.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64:895–899.10.1093/bjps/axt007Search in Google Scholar

Dowe P., 2000. Physical Causation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511570650Search in Google Scholar

Dupré, J. 1993. The Disorder of Things. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ellis, B. 2001. Scientific Essentialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Fair, D. 1979. “Causation and the Flow of Energy.” Erkenntnis 14 (3):219–250.10.1007/BF00174894Search in Google Scholar

Glynn, L. 2012. “Getting Causes from Powers.” Mind 121 (484):1099–1106.10.1093/mind/fzt010Search in Google Scholar

Grünbaum, A. 1967. Modern Science and Zeno’s Paradoxes. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hansson, T. 2006. “Too Many Dispositional Properties.” SATS–Nordic Journal of Philosophy 7 (2):37–42.10.1515/SATS.2006.37Search in Google Scholar

Hansson Wahlberg, T. 2009. “4-D Objects and Disposition Ascriptions.” Philosophical Papers 38 (1):35–72.10.1080/05568640902933460Search in Google Scholar

Harré, R., and E.H. Madden 1973. “Natural Powers and Powerful Natures.” Philosophy 48 (185):209–230.10.1017/S0031819100042728Search in Google Scholar

Harré, R., and E.H. Madden 1975. Causal Powers: A Theory of Natural Necessity. Oxford: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Hennig, B. 2016. “Getting Causes from Powers.” Philosophical Quarterly 66 (263):414–417.10.1093/pq/pqv066Search in Google Scholar

Huemer, M., and B. Kovitz 2003. “Causation as Simultaneous and Continuous.” Philosophical Quarterly 53 (213):556–565.10.1111/1467-9213.00331Search in Google Scholar

Hume, D. 1740/1978. A Treatise of Human Nature, 2nd ed. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/oseo/instance.00046221Search in Google Scholar

Hussey, E. 1983/1993. “Introduction.” In Aristotle Physics Books III and IV, edited by E. Hussey. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ingthorsson, R. 2002. “Causal Production as Interaction.” Metaphysica 3 (1):87–119.Search in Google Scholar

Ingthorsson, R. 2007. “Is There a Problem of Action at a Temporal Distance?.” SATS–Nordic Journal of Philosophy 8 (1):138–154.10.1515/SATS.2007.138Search in Google Scholar

Jammer, M. 1999. Concepts of Force. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Johnson, W.E. 1924. Logic, Part III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Körner, S., and R.M. Chisholm 1988. “Editors’ Introduction to the English Edition.” In Philosophical Investigations on Space, Time and the Continuum, edited by F. Brentano, vii-xxiii. London: Croom Helm.Search in Google Scholar

Le Poidevin, R. 1991. Change, Cause and Contradiction. London: Macmillan.10.1007/978-1-349-21146-3Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.Search in Google Scholar

Lowe, E.J. 2012. “Mumford and Anjum on Causal Necessitarianism and Antecedent Strengthening.” Analysis 72 (4):731–735.10.1093/analys/ans108Search in Google Scholar

Maudlin, T. 2002. Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity, 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.10.1002/9780470752166Search in Google Scholar

Maudlin, T. 2012. Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Search in Google Scholar

McKitrick, J. 2013. “Getting Causes from Powers.” Analysis 73 (2):402–404.10.1093/analys/ant016Search in Google Scholar

Mellor, D.H. 1974. “In Defense of Dispositions.” The Philosophical Review 83 (2):157–181.10.2307/2184136Search in Google Scholar

Mellor, D.H. 1995. The Facts of Causation. London: Routledge.10.4324/9780203302682Search in Google Scholar

Mellor, D.H. 1998. Real Time II. London: Routledge.10.4324/9780203302675Search in Google Scholar

Molnar, G. 2003. Powers: A Study in Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Mumford, S. 1998. Dispositions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Mumford, S. 2004. Laws in Nature. Abingdon: Routledge.10.4324/9780203458426Search in Google Scholar

Mumford, S. 2009. “Powers and Persistence.” In Unity and Time in Metaphysics, edited by L. Honnefelder, E. Runggaldier and B. Schick, 223–236. Berlin: De Gruyter.10.1515/9783110212358.223Search in Google Scholar

Mumford, S., and R.L. Anjum 2011. Getting Causes from Powers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695614.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Price, H. 1996. Time’s Arrow and Archimedes’ Point. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195117981.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Russell, B. 1912–1913. “On the Notion of Cause.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 13:1–26.10.1093/aristotelian/13.1.1Search in Google Scholar

Russell, B. 1948. Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. London: George Allen & Unwin.Search in Google Scholar

Shoemaker, S. 1980. “Causality and Properties.” In Time and Cause: Essays Presented to Richard Taylor, edited by P. Van Inwagen, 109–135. Dordrecht: Reidel.10.1007/978-94-017-3528-5_7Search in Google Scholar

Smith, B., and A.C. Varzi 2000. “Fiat and Bona Fide Boundaries.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (2):401–420.10.2307/2653492Search in Google Scholar

Taylor, E.F., and J.A. Wheeler 1992. Spacetime Physics. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.Search in Google Scholar

Tooley, M. 1997. Time, Tense, and Causation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Varzi, A. 2013. “Boundary.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E.N. Zalta. Accessed 4 December 2016. in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2017-3-22
Published in Print: 2017-4-1

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 23.2.2024 from
Scroll to top button