Ideas of Jonathan Bennett, by Theme

[New Zealand, b.1931, Taught at Syracuse University.]

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7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / a. Nature of events
Maybe an event's time of occurrence is essential to it
     Full Idea: It has been argued that an event's time of occurrence is essential to it.
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Event Causation: counterfactual analysis [1987], p.221)
     A reaction: [He cites Lawrence Lombard] This sound initially implausible, particularly if a rival event happened, say, .1 of a second later than the actual event. It might depend on one's view about determinism. Interesting.
Maybe each event has only one possible causal history
     Full Idea: Perhaps it is impossible that an event should have had a causal history different from the one that it actually had.
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Event Causation: counterfactual analysis [1987], p.220)
     A reaction: [He cites van Inwagen for this] The idea is analagous to baptismal accounts of reference. Individuate an event by its history. It might depend (as Davidson implies) on how you describe the event.
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / c. Reduction of events
Events are made of other things, and are not fundamental to ontology
     Full Idea: Events are not basic items in the universe; they should not be included in any fundamental ontology...all the truths about them are entailed by and explained and made true by truths that do not involve the event concept.
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Events and Their Names [1988], p.12), quoted by Peter Simons - Events 3.1
     A reaction: Given the variable time spans of events, their ability to coincide, their ability to contain no motion, their blatantly conventional component, and their recalcitrance to individuation, I say Bennett is right.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation
Delaying a fire doesn't cause it, but hastening it might
     Full Idea: Although you cannot cause a fire by delaying something's burning, you can cause a fire by hastening something's burning.
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Event Causation: counterfactual analysis [1987], p.223)
     A reaction: A very nice observation which brings out all sorts of problems about identifying causes. Bennett is criticising the counterfactual account. It is part of the problem of pre-emption, where causes are queueing up to produce a given effect.
Either cause and effect are subsumed under a conditional because of properties, or it is counterfactual
     Full Idea: We must choose between subsumption and counterfactual analyses of causal statements. The former means that cause and effect have some properties that enables them to be subsumed under a conditional. The latter is just 'if no-c then no-e'.
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Event Causation: counterfactual analysis [1987], p.217)
     A reaction: I have an immediate preference for the former account, which seems to potentially connect it with physics and features of the world which make one thing lead to another. The counterfactual account seems very thin, and is more like mere semantics.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Types of cause
Causes are between events ('the explosion') or between facts/states of affairs ('a bomb dropped')
     Full Idea: Theories of causation are split between event and fact/state of affairs theories. The first have the form 'the explosion caused the fire' (perfect nominals) and the second have the form 'the fire started because a bomb dropped' (sentential clauses).
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Event Causation: counterfactual analysis [1987])
     A reaction: Surely events must have priority? The form which uses facts is drifting off into explanation, and is much more likely to involve subjective human elements and interpretations. Events are closer to the physics, and the mechanics of what happens.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
Facts are about the world, not in it, so they can't cause anything
     Full Idea: Facts are not the sort of item that can cause anything. A fact is a true proposition (they say); it is not something in the world but is rather something about the world.
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Events and Their Names [1988], p.22), quoted by Jonathan Schaffer - The Metaphysics of Causation 1.1
     A reaction: Compare 10361. Good argument, but maybe 'fact' is ambiguous. See Idea 10365. Events are said to be more concrete, and so can do the job, but their individuation also seems to depend on a description (as Davidson has pointed out).
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / c. Counterfactual causation
The full counterfactual story asserts a series of events, because counterfactuals are not transitive
     Full Idea: The refinement of a simple counterfactual analysis is to say that cause and effect depend on a series of events. This must be asserted because counterfactual conditionals are well known not to be transitive.
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Event Causation: counterfactual analysis [1987])
     A reaction: This fills out the theory, but offers another target for critics. If the glue that binds the series is not in the counterfactuals, is it just in the mind of the speaker? How do you decide what's in the series? Cf. deciding offside in football (soccer!).
A counterfactual about an event implies something about the event's essence
     Full Idea: Any counterfactual about a particular event implies or presupposes something about the event's essence.
     From: Jonathan Bennett (Event Causation: counterfactual analysis [1987], p.219)
     A reaction: This is where the counterfactual theory suddenly becomes more interesting, instead of just being a rather bare account of the logical structure of causation. (Bennett offers some discussion of possible essential implications).
27. Natural Reality / C. Space-Time / 1. Space / d. Substantival space
Empty space is measurable in ways in which empty time necessarily is not
     Full Idea: Because of the multidimensionality of space and unidimensionality of time, empty space is measurable in ways in which empty time necessarily is not.
     From: report of Jonathan Bennett (Kant's Analytic [1966], p.175) by Sydney Shoemaker - Time Without Change p.49 n4
     A reaction: An interesting observation, which could have been used by Samuel Clarke in his attempts to prove absolute space to Leibniz. The point does not prove absolute space, of course, but it seems to make a difference.