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cause / effect {Ger. Ursache / Wirkung}}

Distinction between the events involved in a causal relationship, where the occurrence of one (the cause) is supposed to bring about or produce an occurrence of the other (the effect). Although the correct analysis of causation is a matter of great dispute, Hume offered a significant criticism of our inclination to infer a necessary connection from mere regularity, and Mill proposed a set of methods for recognizing the presence of causal relationships. Contemporary philosophers often suppose that a causal relationship is best expressed in the counterfactual statement that if the cause had not occured, then the effect would not have occured either.

Recommended Reading: Judea Pearl, Causality: Models, Reasoning,and Inference (Cambridge, 2000); Wesley C. Salmon, Causality and Explanation (Oxford, 1997); and Evan Fales, Causation and Universals (Routledge, 1990).

Also see Rudy Garns, EB, SEP on causal processes, medieval theories of causation, counterfactual theories of causation, causal determinism, probabilistic theories of causation, the metaphysics of causation, backwards causation, causation and manipulability, and causation in the law, and CE.

causes, the four {Gk. αιτια [aitia]}

Aristotle's distinction in the Physics among four answers to the question of why something is:

  • the material cause is the stuff from which the thing is made;
  • the formal cause is the pattern or structure it has;
  • the efficient cause is the agent that imposed this form on that matter; and
  • the final cause is the purpose for the thing.

Thus, for example, the material cause of this chair is the wood out of which it is made, the formal cause is the shape into which it was fashioned, the efficient cause was the carpenter by whom the chair was made, and the final cause is the sitting for the sake of which it was designed. In the case of living beings, Aristotle supposed, the soul is the formal, efficient, and final cause; the body is only the material cause.

Recommended Reading: Aristotle, The Physics: Books I-IV, tr. by Philip H. Wicksteed and Francis M. Cornford (Harvard, 1986) and Aristotle's Physics: A Collection of Essays, ed. by Lindsay Judson (Clarendon, 1995).

Cavendish, Margaret (1623-1673)

English philosopher and playwright. Cavendish criticized the natural philosophy of both Hobbes and Descartes in Philosophical Letters (1664), and that of Boyle in Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666). Her own view, developed fully in The Grounds of Natural Philosophy (1668), was materialist but not mechanistic, supposing that all matter is imbued with soul. In A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life (1656) Cavendish commented upon the place of women in seventeenth-century society.

Recommended Reading: Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. by Kate Lilley (Penguin, 1994) Anna Battigelli, Margaret Cavendish and the Exiles of the Mind (Kentucky, 1998)

Also see ELC.


Name given by medieval logicians to any categorical syllogism whose standard form may be designated as EAE-1.

Example: No cold-blooded animals are furry pets, even though all reptiles are cold-blooded animals; therefore, no reptiles are furry pets.

This is one of only fifteen forms of syllogism that are always valid.

Also see SEP and EB.


Name given by medieval logicians to a categorical syllogism whose standard form is EAE-2.

Example: Since no truly peaceful nations are places where basic human rights are inadequately defended, while all countries torn by ethnic strife are places where basic human rights are inadequately defended, it follows that no countries torn by ethnic strife are truly peaceful nations.

This is one of the fifteen forms of valid syllogism.

Also see EB.

chain of being

Belief that existing things can be hierarchically ordered, from least to greatest, in an unbroken series from inanimate particles of matter to the deity. A. O. Lovejoy traced this concrete application of the principle of plenitude from ancient Greek thought through neoplatonism to its influence on early twentieth-century idealism.

Recommended Reading: Arthur Oncken Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (Harvard, 1970).

Also see EB and Peter Suber.

Charron, Pierre (1541-1603)

French theologian. Although De la Sagesse (Of Wisdom) (1601) expressed many themes from the Stoic tradition, Charron shared with Montaigne a profound skepticism about general knowledge of god and the world.

Also see EB.

Chisholm, Roderick M. (1916-1999)

American philosopher who applied the phenomenological methods of Brentano and Meinong to the central issues of epistemology in the analytic tradition in such books as Perceiving: A Philosophical Study (1957), Realism and the Background of Phenomenology (1960), Person and Object: A Metaphysical Study (1976), and Brentano and Intrinsic Value (1986).

Recommended Reading: Roderick M. Chisholm, A Realistic Theory of Categories: An Essay on Ontology (Cambridge, 1996); The Philosophy of Roderick M. Chisholm, ed. by Lewis Edwin Hahn (Open Court, 1997); and Analysis and Metaphysics: Essays in Honor of R. M. Chisholm, ed. by Keith Lehrer (Kluwer, 1975).

Also see SEP, EB, Pradeep A. Dhillon, and Andrew Chrucky.

Chomsky, Noam Avram (1928- )

American linguist and philosopher, author of Syntatactic Structures (1957), Cartesian Linguistics (A chapter in the history of rationalist thought) (1966), Language and Mind (1968), and Knowledge of Language (1986). In opposition to prevalent behaviorism, Chomsky's psycholinguistic approach holds that competence in the use of language reveals innate possession of universal generative grammatical structures that cannot be acquired simply by empirical evidence. Chomsky has also been an outspoken and thoughtful critic of American foreign policy since the 1960s in such books as American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), Necessary Illusions (1989), and Deterring Democracy (1992).

Recommended Reading: The Chomsky Reader, ed. by James Peck (Pantheon, 1987).

Also see EB, DPM, Andy Blunden, ELC, and MIT.

Chrysippus (280-207 B.C.E.)

Primary author of the stoic philosophy. Although none of his many writings survived antiquity, Chrysippus reportedly made significant contributions to the development of logic and ethics. He is generally credited with invention of the propositional calculus and eloquent expression of the doctrine of eternal return.

Recommended Reading: J. B. Gould, The Philosophy of Chrysippus (Brill, 1997); Brad Inwood, Ethics and Human Action in Early Stoicism (Oxford, 1992); and A. A. Long, Stoic Studies (Cambridge, 1996) .

Also see IEP, EB, and ELC.

Church, Alonzo (1903- )

American logician and mathematician; author of Introduction to Mathematical Logic (1956). Building on the work of Gödel, Church showed that there can be no systematic decision procedure for the theorems of sophisticated formal systems like arithmetic, since such systems characteristically involve non-recursive formulae for which there is no computable algorithm.

Recommended Reading: Alonzo Church, A Bibliography of Symbolic Logic (1666-1935) (Association of Symbolic Logic, 1985).

Also see SEP, EB, DPM, ELC, and MMT.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.E.)

Roman politician whose philosophical writings primarily translated the work of Greek philosophers into his own polished Latin. Thus, De re publica and De legibus (Of the State and Of the Laws) owe much to dialogues of Plato on political structure. Cicero also relied heavily upon the Stoics for much of his philosophy of nature and ethics, exemplified nicely in Tusculanae disputationes (Disputations at Tusculum) and "The Dream of Scipio." The influence of Aristotle is evident in De officiis (On Duties) and Laelius, sive de Amicitia (Essay on Friendship) (44 B.C.E.).

Recommended Reading: Marcus Tullius Cicero, Selected Works, tr. by Michael Grant (Viking, 1960); Cicero the Philosopher: Twelve Papers, ed. by Jonathan Powell (Oxford, 1999); and Neal Wood, Cicero's Social and Political Thought: An Introduction (California, 1991).

Also see IEP, EB, and ELC.


Reasoning that improperly assumes the truth of what is at issue. A circular argument implicitly employs its own conclusion as a premise. A circular definition defines an expression in terms of itself. The problem is that circular reasoning—however accurate—is bound to be uninformative.

Also see EB and Peter Suber.

Cixous, Hélène (1937- )

Algerian-French philosopher and literary critic. Employing Derrida's methods of deconstruction in Entré l'Écriture (Coming to Writing) (1986) and Le Jeune Née (The Newly Born Woman) (1975), Cixous proposed the creation of literary works by écriture féminine, "writing the body" in order to undermine the influence of masculine language. Since the feminine is always regarded as other and inferior in the dichotomies fostered by logocentric patriarchy, Cixous maintains that women can elude male domination only by rejecting the binary oppositions inherent in symbolic language. By celebrating historically-repressed differences, she believes, victims of repression forge the new identities upon which a genuinely post-colonial and post-patriarchal society might be founded.

Recommended Reading: The Hélène Cixous Reader, ed. by Susan Sellers and Jacques Derrida (Routledge, 1994); Verena Andermatt Conley, Hélène Cixous: Writing the Feminine (Nebraska, 1991); The Body and the Text: Hélène Cixous, Reading and Teaching, ed. by Helen Wilcox, Keith McWatters, Ann Thompson, and Linda R. Williams (St. Martin's, 1991); and Hélène Cixous (Toronto, 1992).

Also see FTW, EB, "The Laugh of the Medusa", and Stanford University.


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