Sonia Vandepitte
Table of contents

Causality is one of the most intriguing concepts which a human being acquires in the earliest stages of life. The sunlight can change the color of a toy. Adults can make objects disappear and reappear. A baby itself can cause events to happen. As these examples show, causality involves at least two states of affairs and an observer. If the observer establishes a link between the two states of affairs, seeing the former as unmistakenly leading to the occurrence of the latter, the observer sees a causal relation. In that relation the former state of affairs is identified as the cause, and the latter as the consequence (other terms are effect and result). The establishment of a causal relation is therefore a cognitive operation, in which the role of the observer is quintessential. Unsurprisingly, causality is primarily a philosophical notion and has been treated by philosophers – starting with Aristotle – in different ways. A survey of their ideas has most recently been summarized from a linguistic point of view by Breul (1997).

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