Rabbit hunting

Synthese 121 (1-2):55-78 (1999)
Twenty years ago, Nancy Cartwright wrote a perceptive essay in which she clearly distinguished causal relations from associations, introduced philosophers to Simpson’s paradox, articulated the difficulties for reductive probabilistic analyses of causation that flow from these observations, and connected causal relations with strategies of action (Cartwright 1979). Five years later, without appreciating her essay, I and my (then) students began to develop formal representations of causal and probabilistic relations, which, subsequently informed by the work of computer scientists and statisticians, led eventually to a practical theory of causal inference and prediction, a theory incorporating some of the sensibilities Cartwright had voiced (Glymour et al. 1987; Spirtes et al. 1993). That theory, and ideas related to it, have become a subfield of computer science with contributions far deeper than mine from many sources, and its inferential and predictive techniques have been successfully applied in biology, economics, educational research, geology and space physics.
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