Venetian sea levels, british bread prices and the principle of the common cause: A reassessment

In H. de Regt, S. Okasha & S. Hartmann (eds.), EPSA Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009. Springer 341-354 (2011)
It is still a controversial issue whether Reichenbach’s Principle of the Common Cause (RPCC) is a sound method for causal inference. In fact, the status of the principle has been a subject of intense philosophical debate. An extensive literature has been thus generated both with arguments in favor and against the adequacy of the principle. A remarkable argument against the principle, first proposed by Elliott Sober (Sober, 1987, 2001), consists on a counterexample which involves corelations between bread prices in Britain and sea levels in Venice. The aim of this paper is to put into perspective criticisms to RPCC of the kind of Sober’s in the light of recent formal results regarding the so-called extendability and common cause completability.
Keywords Reichenbach's Principle of the Common Cause  Causal inference  Venetian sea levels
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