My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I regard this book as an essential reading for anyone wanting to engage with the philosophical issue of causation. It was an important source in my PhD thesis 15 years ago and I still rely on it. It marks an early criticism of the empiricist conception of causation, and gives a really good historical account of the development of the concept of causation, especially of how its development has been influenced by various meta-philosophical trends. For instance, what happened to it when philosophy became convinced that everything must be accounted for in ways that can be confirmed by observation and mathematically quantified. It also offers a critical contrast between philosophical views of physical interactions, and how these are described by science. In particular that philosophy takes interactions to involve unidirectional influence, from one object to another, while science describes them as reciprocal, everything always affects everything mutually. This is a point that is particularly relevant for more recent attempts to develop so-called powers based causation. Anyway, the book gives a really good background to the issue of causation, and offers some cutting edge insights as well, even such that only now are getting attention by the philosophical community, e.g. by myself. Other reviewers have warned that although non-technical the book isn’t really an easy read. I would like to qualify that by saying that it provides a challenge because it is extremely dense—a lot of information to process in every paragraph—but it is not confused or unclear. So, it is really admirably concise and clear, but to the point that the amount of information per page can become a little overwhelming.