Probabilistic causality reexamined

Erkenntnis 36 (2):219 - 244 (1992)
According to Nancy Cartwright, a causal law holds just when a certain probabilistic condition obtains in all test situations which in turn satisfy a set of background conditions. These background conditions are shown to be inconsistent and, on separate account, logically incoherent. I offer a corrective reformulation which also incorporates a strategy for problems like Hesslow's thrombosis case. I also show that Cartwright's recent argument for modifying the condition to appeal to singular causes fails.Proposed modifications of the theory's probabilistic condition to handle effects with extreme probabilities (0 or 1) are found unsatisfactory. I propose a unified solution which also handles extreme causes. Undefined conditional probabilities give rise to three good, but non-equivalent, ways of formulating the theory. Various formulations appear in the literature. I give arguments to eliminate all but one candidate. Finally, I argue for a crucial new condition clause, and show how to extend the results beyond a simple probabilistic framework.
Keywords causal law  probabilistic causation  Nancy Cartwright
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DOI 10.1007/BF00217474
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