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Staunch - Causation Generally • There is never "one thing" which causes an event - we need to find a complete causal set o As Hart and Honore suggest: it is a particular puzzling or unusual occurrence, or divergence from the standard state or performance of something wiTH whose ordinary states or modes of functioning we are familiar; and when we look for the cause of this we are looking for something, usually earlier in time, which is abnormal or an interference in the sense that it is not present when things are as usual • So when there is a fire, several things are needed o Fuel o Oxygen o A lack of sprinklets o Some sort of ignition • After extensive enquiries we discover that the fire started in a room where, a short while before, somebody had carelessly thrown a lighted cigarette into a wastepaper basket. o In putting this forward as the fire's cause, we simply ignore the many background conditions, eg the presence of paper in the basket, the lack of a sprinkler system, the presence, for that matter, of oxygen in the air, also necessary and, together with the cigarette, sufficient, for the result. Since the latter are normal features of the situation, mentioning them has no point: it does not explain why on this occasion the fire occurred But for test
• As Hart and Honore note, it is the need to explain why something happened that is the key motivation behind the type of forensic enquiry engaged in by the lawyer. o The latter's task is to attribute responsibility for harmful outcomes ex post facto. In this regard, the familiar 'but for' test is usually applied in order to decide whether our candidate condition, the discarded cigarette, was truly the cause of the fire. This test is so-called because it poses the following hypothetical question: 'but for the discarded cigarette (that is, supposing it had not been discarded) would the damage have occurred?' • If the answer is 'no', then the presence of the cigarette was decisive: it made the difference. • If the answer is 'yes', it did not. o In this manner the test tells us if the candidate condition was a necessary condition for the fire. o But there is no suggestion that it was a sufficient condition. As already noted, it was only sufficient taken together with the various background conditions, paper in the basket, oxygen in the air, etc., whose presence in the set was also necessary for the fire to follow Problems with the but for test o Suppose that at the very moment the cigarette was thrown into the bulding, a short circuit also occurred
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