Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Nancy Cartwright’s most recent book, Hunting Causes and Using Them: Approaches to Philosophy and Economics (hereafter, HCUT), is a welcome and provocative addition to the current literature on causation. In HCUT, Cartwright further develops themes from her earlier work, especially Nature’s Capacities and their Measurement (1989) and The Dappled World (1999). One theme is that methodological issues having to with inferring and applying claims about cause and effect must be considered in tandem with metaphysical questions about what causation is. And with regard to the latter issue, Cartwright insists that causation is not just one kind of thing but is instead a general category for various types of processes that often differ in important ways. From these two themes, it naturally follows that one should be skeptical that there is any method of causal inference that is applicable in all cases. Moreover, for any method, one ought to be very clear about the types of causal systems for which it is suited and, of equal importance, those for which it is not. Given Cartwright’s approach, such investigations will require careful attention to domain specific detail about the nature of the causal processes of interest. Cartwright pursues these ideas in the context of critical examinations of current approaches to causation, including Bayes nets and several approaches proposed by econometricians. I am quite sympathetic to Cartwright’s overall perspective on causation, but I take issue with some of her characterizations of particular approaches and several of her specific claims about their limitations. I focus on Cartwright’s claims concerning methods of causal inference that rely on Bayes nets, which among the methods she discusses is the one I know best. First, I argue that Cartwright’s discussion of this topic 1 is problematic insofar as it does not pay adequate attention to the distinct projects that might be pursued within a Bayes nets approach to causation..|
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