Reasons as causes in bayesian epistemology

Journal of Philosophy 104 (9):464-474 (2007)
Abstract
In everyday matters, as well as in law, we allow that someone’s reasons can be causes of her actions, and often are. That correct reasoning accords with Bayesian principles is now so widely held in philosophy, psychology, computer science and elsewhere that the contrary is beginning to seem obtuse, or at best quaint. And that rational agents should learn about the world from energies striking sensory inputs nerves in people—seems beyond question. Even rats seem to recognize the difference between correlation and causation,1 and accordingly make different inferences from passive observation than from interventions. A few statisticians aside,” so do most of us. To square these views with the demands of computability, increasing numbers of psychologists and others have embraced a particular formalization, causal Bayes nets, as an account of human reasoning about and to causal connections.111 Such structures can be used by rational agents, including humans in so far as they are rational, to have degrees of belief in various conceptual contents, which they use to reason to expectations, which are realized or defeated by sensory inputs, which cause them to change their degrees of belief in other contents in accord with Bayes Rule, or some generalization of it. How is all of this supposed to be carried out? l. Representing Causal Structures The causal Bayes net framework adopted by a growing number of psychologists goes like this: Our representations of causal relations are captured in a graphical causal.
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