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A Rosetta Stone for Causation

The law of mental causation — or motives — is a mess. It is as if writers in the field are using different languages to describe a multiplicity of causal concepts. The plethora of causal terms and lack of definitional clarity make it difficult to understand the relationship among causal concepts within a single area of law, let alone across substantive areas of law. To reach a clear and consistent understanding of this mess, it would be useful to have a Rosetta Stone — a translation key describing causal concepts and the relationships among those concepts in a precise and universal way. Andrew Verstein’s article, The Jurisprudence of Mixed Motives, comes close to reaching this ideal. However, his model suffers from two critical flaws: failing to justify a key analytical move and using terminology that is more confusing than it is universal. In this Response, I suggest remedies to those problems as well as a way to transform Verstein’s model into a Rosetta Stone for mental causation.