Strange question here but can an object instantiating a property be a cause of it instantiating another different property? For example; I instantiate the property of being hairy and warm blooded which causes me to instantiate the property of being a mammal (or something like this).

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    Your example involves a relationship that is analytic and therefore not caused. How about this example? The property that my stomach is empty is the cause for the property that I am hungry. Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 16:58
  • @DavidGudeman Yes like that, is that even valid? The properties themselves can't be causal because they are abstract, and the instantiation relation is also abstract. So it cannot be causal?
    – r0k1m
    Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 17:02
  • Since it's a strange question, perhaps you could explain more about what prompted you to ask? What is at stake in this issue? Also, I don't think that being hungry or having an empty stomach are abstract, they seem pretty concrete to me.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 20:53
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    On the standard theories of causation, it is events that are causal relata rather than properties. However, there are theories that make substances (agent causation) and/or their properties into such relata, e.g. Shoemaker's, see his Causality and Properties:"What makes a property the property it is, what determines its identity, is its potential for contributing to the causal powers of the things that have it."
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 21:20

3 Answers 3


The word 'cause' has a number of meanings. One refers to a physical process through which an effect is produced. In physics and philosophy the word 'causal' is typically used to refer to such processes- they are distinguished by having a temporal aspect, with the cause preceding the effect. Cause can also be used to refer to reasons and logical relationships more generally, regardless of whether there was a physical process with an outcome.

You seem to be conflating those two uses of the word 'cause' in asking whether being warm and hairy 'causes' you to be a mammal. The answer is clearly no in the first sense of the word cause that I outlined above.

If I have five apples and I give one away, I cause the number of apples to become four, even and a square. My physical action has three logical consequences. You could if you like consider the number being four to be the 'cause' of it also being even and being a square, but you would be using the word 'cause' in quite a different sense.


YES, for at least two reasons:

  1. If the property is provided by an analytic predicate (cannot be a synthetic predicate: it would be unrelated information), like "John is a bachelor", then such definition causes John to be not married. For example: if John is a bachelor (cause), then, he's married (consequence).

  2. For Hume, causality is the habit of constant conjunction; so, if you get the habit of listening that all A's are B's and all B's are C's, then you assume that any A becoming B (cause) is then (consequence) a C. For example: since I know that A is B, then, I know that A is C.

But also, NO, for at least one reason:

  1. Properties do not cause effects: is its usage that produce effects. the statement "A is B" has no relationship whatsoever with C until is rationally (by Reason) interpreted using Logic (the rules Reason follows). Only when reason starts it's logical process, the observer can deduce "then, A is C".

Generally no. As others have mentioned, it can be argued you are conflating physical causality with metaphysical necessity. If I mist and blow water into the atmosphere on a cold day on a mountain for skiing, I can cause snow to form. I might even say that I caused the mountain to appear white. But what is awkward is to say that I caused the snow to appear white. Whiteness as a qualia seems inextricably bound to the being of snow in a way that water being snow is not. It should be noted that there is a quasi-causal position however. From metaphysical explanation (SEP):

That metaphysical explanation is like causal explanation is a view with quite a few proponents today (though see Taylor 2018 for some problem cases for this view). Mostly those who think it is, also think that all or most metaphysical explanations track or are grounding relations (see §3 above). According to these philosophers, more precisely, metaphysical explanation is like causal explanation because grounding is like causation (Fine 2012; Schaffer 2016, 2017; A. Wilson 2018). In what sense grounding is like causation varies among proponents of this view. According to Schaffer, grounding and causation, although similar (because both species of the kind directed determination relation), are distinct. According to Wilson, grounding and what he calls “nomic causation” are both kinds of causation (although of a rather different sort than ordinary causation; see §2). On both accounts, metaphysical and causal explanation are alike because grounding and causation resemble each other. One might however think that metaphysical explanation is like causal explanation simply because the relations those explanations track play the same role vis-a-vis explanation.

So strictly speaking, it is not indefensible to see metaphysical necessity in causal terms as long as one is careful about drawing a distinction with actual physical causliaty.

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