[hist-analytic] Causatives

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sun May 24 09:36:28 EDT 2009


I dealt with causatives many years ago in a lengthy paper. The subject of causatives gets tied up with ergatives and unaccusatives etc. We need to contrast sentences like 

Killing the goose that laid the golden egg caused the confusion among the people 

and sentences like 

I cooked the steak black. 

In the second the causativity is "incorporated." In the former (periphrastic construction) it is not. There are numerous fascinating causative constructions. I couldn't comment much further without refreshing my memory, BUT I will say this: that in Davidson's treatment of the logical form of action sentences if we take action sentences involving causative of the latter sort, then Davidson will have trouble linking prepositional phrases to verb in logical form using simply conjunction and modified predicates. The two best people in my day on this topic were Shibatani, Masayoshi who in 1976 published _The grammar of causative constructions: A conspectus. The Grammar of Causative Constructions Syntax and Semantics 6, 1-40 New York: Academic Press and Mark C. Baker who discusses the topic at length and great illumination in his classic: _Incorporation. A Theory of Grammatical Function Changing_, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1988, pp. viii-543. For now I'll leave it at that but say one more thing regarding your interesting post. You say, 

"Davidson seems to be wanting to say that, for Hume, there is _something_ 
*in* the event that must have 'priority' in terms of 'causal efficiency'." 

Davidson wants to deny that events cause because they cause only under certain descriptions (much like some events are actions (intentional actions) only under certain descriptions). VERY briefly, what is going on is this: Hume advocates a law approach to causation. Laws relate predicates and predicates are like descriptions. He wants to get away from properties, since these would be "in" events, although I don't think he is right to gerrymander Hume's position like this. Much of this was a fad, suggested by saying things like events are propositions etc. What nonsense! 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: Jlsperanza at aol.com 
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk 
Sent: Sunday, May 24, 2009 4:27:22 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: Causatives 

A few remarks on 'cause'. Since Grice loved Kiparsky/Kiparsky 'factive', 
I'm introducing the word with 'linguistic' resonance: 'causative'. The word 
is old, and one cite in the OED goes: 

"Lay is manifestly the causative of Lie." 
GILCHRIST, Etymol. Interp. 1824. 

(The other quotes refer to other languages). 

My point: it seems that while Davidson aptly considers the analyticity of 
things like "the cause of A caused A", it strikes me that an account of 
causation has to cover cases where the word 'cause' is not even used. To echo 
Gilchrist, words like "lay". 

The other point concerns the mentioning of an author I forgot to mention in 
"Hume is where the heart is", but which I think was operative in at least 
Grice's account of causation: H. L. A. Hart. His _Causation in the law_, a 
classic. Grice wants to (strictly) correct Hart. Hart seems to have 
overlooked the fact that while it _is_ relevant that an 'event' needs to be 
noticeable to care for its cause, that needs not be so. "The plant grows" allows 
an explanation as much as "Why the plant dried." 

Considering the remark by S. Bayne on 'events' being either 'after' or 
'before' an event, I do wonder why 'consequentialism' is not more seriously 
developed in common speech. It seems a very practical thing to account for the 
phenomenon in terms of its _effects_, rather than its _causes_. 

Davidson seems to be wanting to say that, for Hume, there is _something_ 
*in* the event that must have 'priority' in terms of 'causal efficiency'. And 
indeed. Davidson's campaign is the very introduction of _event_ as an 
ontological basic. But for Aristotelian it's spatio-temporal continuants. So 
Aristotelians like Romano Harre/Madden ("Causal Powers") it would be 
something in the 'causative agent' and not necessarily the _event_. 

If the bridge collapsed because an agent wickedly bombed it, we know it's 
the _will_ of the agent that 'caused' it. Cfr. "The Bridge on the River", 
the film. It seems Hume is rejecting not just the "necessity" of the causal 
link but its dependence on 'other' fictions of a metaphysical kind: 'will', 
or 'substance' --. 

As for the 'necessity' itself, it may do to revise Burton-Roberts's 
"Modality and Implicature": the word 'contigent' (as in: all causal explantion is 
_contingent_: no necessity need to be involved) is just as _modal_ as 

When Grice wrote "The Causal Theory of Perception" he _knew_ what he was 
talking about. In "Meaning" (1948) he is already qualifying Stevenson (1944) 
as providing a _causal_ theory of meaning itself. Grice never abandoned a 
causalistic approach. Sometimes he was criticised by scientifically-minded 
philosophers in 'dismissing' the details of a relevant causal explanation 

the pillar -------> my 
box is red of the pillar box 

The link need not concern the philosopher, he writes in Section III of 
"Causal Theory": any filling of the gap will do. 

In 1967 he touched on 'causal theories' of knowledge when crediting Gettier 
(without mentioning) with the counterexample to 'justified true belief'. 
If 'know' is _factive_ it should involve some time of 'causative'. If 'see' 
is factive, it should involve some 'causative' -- allowing for loose uses: 
"Macbeth didn't see Banquo: he wasn't there to be seen". "Still we can say 
he saw him." 

--- Later on he became inamoured of Aristotle's _final cause" (to heneka, 
to telos). And there is no way to understand Grice on finality (or 'end') 
without this idea of 'causative', I would think. If the _end_ matters it's 
because Aristotle was not being otiose in calling the 'telos' a type of cause 
(aitia). This would render much of Davidson's fight to re-constitute 
'reasons' as 'causes' as historically redundant? 


J. L. Speranza 

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the U.S. 
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