Abstract for Kaiserman’s Talk

An important principle in common and criminal law is that a defendant is not liable for a harm if there is a ‘break in the chain of causation’ between the defendant’s wrongful conduct and the harm. For example, if the negligence of a tanker company causes oil to leak onto the street, which is then set on fire by a opportunistic arsonist, the tanker company would not be liable for the fire damage, because the arsonist’s act ‘broke the chain of causation’ between the negligence and the damage (Watson v. Kentucky and Indiana Bridge and Ry Co.). This doctrine has been criticized, however, on the grounds that it’s difficult to make sense of it on mainstream philosophical accounts of causation. In this talk, I outline an alternative approach to causation and use it to explain what a ‘break in the chain of causation’ might amount to.