(Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (2007), pp. 111-127) A popular view about why death is bad for the one who dies is that death deprives its subject of the good things in life. This is the “deprivation account” of the evil of death. There is another view about death that seems incompatible with the deprivation account: the view that a person’s death is less bad if she has lived a good life. I give some arguments against this view and defend (...) the deprivation account. Penultimate draft posted with kind permission of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy; please use published version for citations. (shrink)
How ought we learn causal relationships? While Popper advocated a hypothetico-deductive logic of causal discovery, inductive accounts are currently in vogue. Many inductive approaches depend on the causal Markov condition as a fundamental assumption. This condition, I maintain, is not universally valid, though it is justiﬁable as a default assumption. In which case the results of the inductive causal learning procedure must be tested before they can be accepted. This yields a synthesis of the hypothetico-deductive and inductive accounts, which forms (...) the focus of this paper. I discuss the justiﬁcation of this synthesis and draw an analogy between objective Bayesianism and the account of causal learning presented here. (shrink)
Inductive logic admits a variety of semantics (Haenni et al., 2011, Part 1). This paper develops semantics based on the norms of Bayesian epistemology (Williamson, 2010, Chapter 7). §1 introduces the semantics and then, in §2, the paper explores methods for drawing inferences in the resulting logic and compares the methods of this paper with the methods of Barnett and Paris (2008). §3 then evaluates this Bayesian inductive logic in the light of four traditional critiques of inductive logic, arguing (i) (...) that it is language independent in a key sense, (ii) that it admits connections with the Principle of Indiﬀerence but these connections do not lead to paradox, (iii) that it can capture the phenomenon of learning from experience, and (iv) that while the logic advocates scepticism with regard to some universal hypotheses, such scepticism is not problematic from the point of view of scientiﬁc theorising. (shrink)
Machamer, Darden and Craver: ‘Mechanisms are entities and activities organized such that they are productive of regular changes from start or set-up to finish or termination conditions.’ (Machamer, Darden and Craver 2000 p3.) Glennan: ‘A mechanism for a behavior is a complex system that produces that behavior by the interaction of a number of parts, where the interactions between parts can be characterized by direct, invariant, change-relating generalizations.’ (Glennan 2002b pS344.) Bechtel and Abrahamsen: ‘A mechanism is a structure performing a (...) function in virtue of its component parts, component operations, and their organization. The orchestrated functioning of the mechanism is responsible for one or more phenomena.’ (Bechtel and Abrahamsen 2005 p423.). (shrink)
Practical reasoning requires decision—making in the face of uncertainty. Xenelda has just left to go to work when she hears a burglar alarm. She doesn’t know whether it is hers but remembers that she left a window slightly open. Should she be worried? Her house may not be being burgled, since the wind or a power cut may have set the burglar alarm off, and even if it isn’t her alarm sounding she might conceivably be being burgled. Thus Xenelda can (...) not be certain that her house is being burgled, and the decision that she takes must be based on her degree of certainty, together with the possible outcomes of that decision. (shrink)
this paper we argue that the formalism can also be applied to modelling the hierarchical structure of physical mechanisms. The resulting network contains quantitative information about probabilities, as well as qualitative information about mechanistic structure and causal relations. Since information about probabilities, mechanisms and causal relations are vital for prediction, explanation and control respectively, a recursive Bayesian net can be applied to all these tasks. We show how a Recursive Bayesian Net can be used to model mechanisms in cancer science. (...) The highest level of the proposed model will contain variables at the clinical level, while a middle level will map the structure of the DNA damage response mechanism and the lowest level will contain information about gene expression. (shrink)
In this chapter I discuss connections between machine learning and the philosophy of science. First I consider the relationship between the two disciplines. There is a clear analogy between hypothesis choice in science and model selection in machine learning. While this analogy has been invoked to argue that the two disciplines are essentially doing the same thing and should merge, I maintain that the disciplines are distinct but related and that there is a dynamic interaction operating between the two: a (...) series of mutually beneficial interactions that changes over time. I will introduce some particularly fruitful interactions, in particular the consequences of automated scientific discovery for the debate on inductivism versus falsificationism in the philosophy of science, and the importance of philosophical work on Bayesian epistemology and causality for contemporary machine learning. I will close by suggesting the locus of a possible future interaction: evidence integration. (shrink)
This introduction to the volume begins with a manifesto that puts forward two theses: ﬁrst, that the sciences are the best place to turn in order to understand causality; second, that scientiﬁcally-informed philosophical investigation can bring something to the sciences too. Next, the chapter goes through the various parts of the volume, drawing out relevant background and themes of the chapters in those parts. Finally, the chapter discusses the progeny of the papers and identiﬁes some next steps for research into (...) causality in the sciences. (shrink)
Bayesian theory now incorporates a vast body of mathematical, statistical and computational techniques that are widely applied in a panoply of disciplines, from artificial intelligence to zoology. Yet Bayesians rarely agree on the basics, even on the question of what Bayesianism actually is. This book is about the basics e about the opportunities, questions and problems that face Bayesianism today.
The theory of belief revision and merging has recently been applied to judgement aggregation. In this paper I argue that judgements are best aggregated by merging the evidence on which they are based, rather than by directly merging the judgements themselves. This leads to a threestep strategy for judgement aggregation. First, merge the evidence bases of the various agents using some method of belief merging. Second, determine which degrees of belief one should adopt on the basis of this merged evidence (...) base, by applying objective Bayesian theory. Third, determine which judgements are appropriate given these degrees of belief by applying a decision-theoretic account of rational judgement formation. (shrink)
ϕ1, . . . , ϕn |≈ ψ? Here ϕ1, . . . , ϕn, ψ are premisses of some formal language, such as a propositional language or a predicate language. |≈ is an entailment relation: the entailment holds if all models of the premisses also satisfy the conclusion, where the logic provides some suitable notion of ‘model’ and ‘satisfy’. Proof theory is normally invoked to answer a question of this form: one tries to prove the conclusion from the premisses (...) in a finite sequence of steps, where at each step one invokes an axiom or applies a rule of inference. (shrink)
How should we reason with causal relationships? Much recent work on this question has been devoted to the theses (i) that Bayesian nets provide a calculus for causal reasoning and (ii) that we can learn causal relationships by the automated learning of Bayesian nets from observational data. The aim of this book is to..
This chapter addresses two questions: what are causal relationships? how can one discover causal relationships? I provide a survey of the principal answers given to these questions, followed by an introduction to my own view, epistemic causality, and then a comparison of epistemic causality with accounts provided by Judea Pearl and Huw Price.
How is probability related to logic? Should probability and logic be combined? If so, how? Bayesianism tells us we ought to reason probabilistically. In that sense, probability theory is logic. How then does probability theory relate to classical logic and the various non-classical logics that also stake a claim on normative reasoning? Is probability theory to be preferred over other logics or vice versa? Is probability theory to be used in some situations, and the other logics in other situations? Or (...) should probability be combined with other logics? (shrink)
Evidence can be complex in various ways: e.g., it may exhibit structural complexity, containing information about causal, hierarchical or logical structure as well as empirical data, or it may exhibit combinatorial complexity, containing a complex combination of kinds of information. This paper examines evidential complexity from the point of view of Bayesian epistemology, asking: how should complex evidence impact on an agent’s degrees of belief? The paper presents a high-level overview of an objective Bayesian answer: it presents the objective Bayesian (...) norms concerning the relation between evidence and degrees of belief, and goes on to show how evidence of causal, hierarchical and logical structure lead to natural constraints on degrees of belief. The objective Bayesian network formalism is presented, and it is shown how this formalism can be used to handle both kinds of evidential complexity—structural complexity and combinatorial complexity. (shrink)
This paper is a comparison of how first-order Kyburgian Evidential Probability (EP), second-order EP, and objective Bayesian epistemology compare as to the KLM system-P rules for consequence relations and the monotonic / non-monotonic divide.
Bayesian networks are normally given one of two types of foundations: they are either treated purely formally as an abstract way of representing probability functions, or they are interpreted, with some causal interpretation given to the graph in a network and some standard interpretation of probability given to the probabilities specified in the network. In this chapter I argue that current foundations are problematic, and put forward new foundations which involve aspects of both the interpreted and the formal approaches.
How should probabilities be interpreted in causal models in the social and health sciences? In this paper we take a step towards answering this question by investigating the case of cancer in epidemiology and arguing that the objective Bayesian interpretation is most appropriate in this domain.
We consider the use of intervention data for eliminating the underdetermination in statistical modelling, and for guiding extensions of the statistical models. The leading example is factor analysis, a major statistical tool in the social sciences. We first relate indeterminacy in factor analysis to the problem of underdetermination. Then we draw a parallel between factor analysis models and Bayesian networks with hidden nodes, which allows us to clarify the use of intervention data for dealing with indeterminacy. It will be shown (...) that in some cases, the indeterminacy can be resolved by an intervention. In the other cases, the intervention data suggest specific extensions of the model. The upshot is that intervention data can replace theoretical criteria that are typically employed in resolving underdetermination and theory change. (shrink)
How ought we learn causal relationships? While Popper advocated a hypothetico-deductive logic of causal discovery, inductive accounts are currently in vogue. Many inductive approaches depend on the causal Markov condition as a fundamental assumption. This condition, I maintain, is not universally valid, though it is justifiable as a default assumption. In which case the results of the inductive causal learning procedure must be tested before they can be accepted. This yields a synthesis of the hypothetico-deductive and inductive accounts, which forms (...) the focus of this paper. I discuss the justification of this synthesis and draw an analogy between objective Bayesianism and the account of causal learning presented here. (shrink)
Kyburg goes half-way towards objective Bayesianism. He accepts that frequencies constrain rational belief to an interval but stops short of isolating an optimal degree of belief within this interval. I examine the case for going the whole hog.
After introducing a range of mechanistic theories of causality and some of the problems they face, I argue that while there is a decisive case against a purely mechanistic analysis, a viable theory of causality must incorporate mechanisms as an ingredient. I describe one way of providing an analysis of causality which reaps the rewards of the mechanistic approach without succumbing to its pitfalls.
I present a formalism that combines two methodologies: objective Bayesianism and Bayesian nets. According to objective Bayesianism, an agent’s degrees of belief (i) ought to satisfy the axioms of probability, (ii) ought to satisfy constraints imposed by background knowledge, and (iii) should otherwise be as non-committal as possible (i.e. have maximum entropy). Bayesian nets offer an efficient way of representing and updating probability functions. An objective Bayesian net is a Bayesian net representation of the maximum entropy probability function.
Cancer treatment decisions should be based on all available evidence. But this evidence is complex and varied: it includes not only the patient’s symptoms and expert knowledge of the relevant causal processes, but also clinical databases relating to past patients, databases of observations made at the molecular level, and evidence encapsulated in scientific papers and medical informatics systems. Objective Bayesian nets offer a principled path to knowledge integration, and we show in this chapter how they can be applied to integrate (...) various kinds of evidence in the cancer domain. This is important from the systems biology perspective, which needs to integrate data that concern different levels of analysis, and is also important from the point of view of medical informatics. (shrink)
This paper develops connections between objective Bayesian epistemology—which holds that the strengths of an agent’s beliefs should be representable by probabilities, should be calibrated with evidence of empirical probability, and should otherwise be equivocal—and probabilistic logic. After introducing objective Bayesian epistemology over propositional languages, the formalism is extended to handle predicate languages. A rather general probabilistic logic is formulated and then given a natural semantics in terms of objective Bayesian epistemology. The machinery of objective Bayesian nets and objective credal nets (...) is introduced and this machinery is applied to provide a calculus for probabilistic logic that meshes with the objective Bayesian semantics. (shrink)
This chapter presents an overview of the major interpretations of probability followed by an outline of the objective Bayesian interpretation and a discussion of the key challenges it faces. I discuss the ramifications of interpretations of probability and objective Bayesianism for the philosophy of mathematics in general.
This chapter provides an overview of a range of probabilistic theories of causality, including those of Reichenbach, Good and Suppes, and the contemporary causal net approach. It discusses two key problems for probabilistic accounts: counterexamples to these theories and their failure to account for the relationship between causality and mechanisms. It is argued that to overcome the problems, an epistemic theory of causality is required.
This volume arose out of an international, interdisciplinary academic network on Probabilistic Logic and Probabilistic Networks involving four of us (Haenni, Romeijn, Wheeler and Williamson), called Progicnet and funded by the Leverhulme Trust from 2006–8. Many of the papers in this volume were presented at an associated conference, the Third Workshop on Combining Probability and Logic (Progic 2007), held at the University of Kent on 5–7 September 2007. The papers in this volume concern either the special focus on the connection (...) between probabilistic logic and probabilistic networks or the more general question of the links between probability and logic. Here we introduce probabilistic logic, probabilistic networks, current and future directions of research and also the themes of the papers that follow. (shrink)
Mechanisms have become much-discussed, yet there is still no consensus on how to characterise them. In this paper, we start with something everyone is agreed on – that mechanisms explain – and investigate what constraints this imposes on our metaphysics of mechanisms. We examine two widely shared premises about how to understand mechanistic explanation: (1) that mechanistic explanation offers a welcome alternative to traditional laws-based explanation and (2) that there are two senses of mechanistic explanation that we call ‘epistemic explanation’ (...) and ‘physical explanation’. We argue that mechanistic explanation requires that mechanisms are both real and local. We then go on to argue that real, local mechanisms require a broadly active metaphysics for mechanisms, such as a capacities metaphysics. (shrink)
The mechanistic and causal accounts of explanation are often conflated to yield a ‘causal-mechanical’ account. This paper prizes them apart and asks: if the mechanistic account is correct, how can causal explanations be explanatory? The answer to this question varies according to how causality itself is understood. It is argued that difference-making, mechanistic, dualist and inferentialist accounts of causality all struggle to yield explanatory causal explanations, but that an epistemic account of causality is more promising in this regard.
Expert probability forecasts can be useful for decision making (Sect. 1). But levels of uncertainty escalate: however the forecaster expresses the uncertainty that attaches to a forecast, there are good reasons for her to express a further level of uncertainty, in the shape of either imprecision or higher order uncertainty (Sect. 2). Bayesian epistemology provides the means to halt this escalator, by tying expressions of uncertainty to the propositions expressible in an agent’s language (Sect. 3). But Bayesian epistemology comes in (...) three main varieties. Strictly subjective Bayesianism and empirically-based subjective Bayesianism have difficulty in justifying the use of a forecaster’s probabilities for decision making (Sect. 4). On the other hand, objective Bayesianism can justify the use of these probabilities, at least when the probabilities are consistent with the agent’s evidence (Sect. 5). Hence objective Bayesianism offers the most promise overall for explaining how testimony of uncertainty can be useful for decision making. Interestingly, the objective Bayesian analysis provided in Sect. 5 can also be used to justify a version of the Principle of Reflection (Sect. 6). (shrink)
Evidence-based medicine (EBM) makes use of explicit procedures for grading evidence for causal claims. Normally, these procedures categorise evidence of correlation produced by statistical trials as better evidence for a causal claim than evidence of mechanisms produced by other methods. We argue, in contrast, that evidence of mechanisms needs to be viewed as complementary to, rather than inferior to, evidence of correlation. In this paper we first set out the case for treating evidence of mechanisms alongside evidence of correlation in (...) explicit protocols for evaluating evidence. Next we provide case studies which exemplify the ways in which evidence of mechanisms complements evidence of correlation in practice. Finally, we put forward some general considerations as to how the two sorts of evidence can be more closely integrated by EBM. (shrink)
According to current hierarchies of evidence for EBM, evidence of correlation (e.g., from RCTs) is always more important than evidence of mechanisms when evaluating and establishing causal claims. We argue that evidence of mechanisms needs to be treated alongside evidence of correlation. This is for three reasons. First, correlation is always a fallible indicator of causation, subject in particular to the problem of confounding; evidence of mechanisms can in some cases be more important than evidence of correlation when assessing a (...) causal claim. Second, evidence of mechanisms is often required in order to obtain evidence of correlation (for example, in order to set up and evaluate RCTs). Third, evidence of mechanisms is often required in order to generalise and apply causal claims. While the EBM movement has been enormously successful in making explicit and critically examining one aspect of our evidential practice, i.e., evidence of correlation, we wish to extend this line of work to make explicit and critically examine a second aspect of our evidential practices: evidence of mechanisms. (shrink)
Mechanistic philosophy of science views a large part of scientific activity as engaged in modelling mechanisms. While science textbooks tend to offer qualitative models of mechanisms, there is increasing demand for models from which one can draw quantitative predictions and explanations. Casini et al. (Theoria 26(1):5–33, 2011) put forward the Recursive Bayesian Networks (RBN) formalism as well suited to this end. The RBN formalism is an extension of the standard Bayesian net formalism, an extension that allows for modelling the hierarchical (...) nature of mechanisms. Like the standard Bayesian net formalism, it models causal relationships using directed acyclic graphs. Given this appeal to acyclicity, causal cycles pose a prima facie problem for the RBN approach. This paper argues that the problem is a significant one given the ubiquity of causal cycles in mechanisms, but that the problem can be solved by combining two sorts of solution strategy in a judicious way. (shrink)
In this paper, we examine what is to be said in defence of Machamer, Darden and Craver’s (MDC) controversial dualism about activities and entities (Machamer, Darden and Craver’s in Philos Sci 67:1–25, 2000). We explain why we believe the notion of an activity to be a novel, valuable one, and set about clearing away some initial objections that can lead to its being brushed aside unexamined. We argue that substantive debate about ontology can only be effective when desiderata for an (...) ontology are explicitly articulated. We distinguish three such desiderata. The first is a more permissive descriptive ontology of science, the second a more reductive ontology prioritising understanding, and the third a more reductive ontology prioritising minimalism. We compare MDC’s entities-activities ontology to its closest rival, the entities-capacities ontology, and argue that the entities-activities ontology does better on all three desiderata. (shrink)
Objective Bayesian epistemology invokes three norms: the strengths of our beliefs should be probabilities, they should be calibrated to our evidence of physical probabilities, and they should otherwise equivocate sufficiently between the basic propositions that we can express. The three norms are sometimes explicated by appealing to the maximum entropy principle, which says that a belief function should be a probability function, from all those that are calibrated to evidence, that has maximum entropy. However, the three norms of objective Bayesianism (...) are usually justified in different ways. In this paper we show that the three norms can all be subsumed under a single justification in terms of minimising worst-case expected loss. This, in turn, is equivalent to maximising a generalised notion of entropy. We suggest that requiring language invariance, in addition to minimising worst-case expected loss, motivates maximisation of standard entropy as opposed to maximisation of other instances of generalised entropy. Our argument also provides a qualified justification for updating degrees of belief by Bayesian conditionalisation. However, conditional probabilities play a less central part in the objective Bayesian account than they do under the subjective view of Bayesianism, leading to a reduced role for Bayes’ Theorem. (shrink)
The orthodox view in statistics has it that frequentism and Bayesianism are diametrically opposed—two totally incompatible takes on the problem of statistical inference. This paper argues to the contrary that the two approaches are complementary and need to mesh if probabilistic reasoning is to be carried out correctly.
After a decade of intense debate about mechanisms, there is still no consensus characterization. In this paper we argue for a characterization that applies widely to mechanisms across the sciences. We examine and defend our disagreements with the major current contenders for characterizations of mechanisms. Ultimately, we indicate that the major contenders can all sign up to our characterization.
According to Russo and Williamson (Int Stud Philos Sci 21(2):157–170, 2007, Hist Philos Life Sci 33:389–396, 2011a, Philos Sci 1(1):47–69, 2011b), in order to establish a causal claim of the form, ‘C is a cause of E’, one typically needs evidence that there is an underlying mechanism between C and E as well as evidence that C makes a difference to E. This thesis has been used to argue that hierarchies of evidence, as championed by evidence-based movements, tend to give (...) primacy to evidence of difference making over evidence of mechanisms and are flawed because the two sorts of evidence are required and they should be treated on a par. An alternative approach gives primacy to evidence of mechanism over evidence of difference making. In this paper, we argue that this alternative approach is equally flawed, again because both sorts of evidence need to be treated on a par. As an illustration of this parity, we explain how scientists working in the ‘EnviroGenomarkers’ project constantly make use of the two evidential components in a dynamic and intertwined way. We argue that such an interplay is needed not only for causal assessment but also for policy purposes. (shrink)
The Recursive Bayesian Net (RBN) formalism was originally developed for modelling nested causal relationships. In this paper we argue that the formalism can also be applied to modelling the hierarchical structure of mechanisms. The resulting network contains quantitative information about probabilities, as well as qualitative information about mechanistic structure and causal relations. Since information about probabilities, mechanisms and causal relations is vital for prediction, explanation and control respectively, an RBN can be applied to all these tasks. We show in particular (...) how a simple two-level RBN can be used tomodel a mechanism in cancer science. The higher level of our model contains variables at the clinical level, while the lower level maps the structure of the cell’s mechanism for apoptosis. (shrink)
Russo and Williamson (Int Stud Philos Sci 21(2):157–170, 2007) put forward the thesis that, at least in the health sciences, to establish the claim that C is a cause of E, one normally needs evidence of an underlying mechanism linking C and E as well as evidence that C makes a difference to E. This epistemological thesis poses a problem for most current analyses of causality which, in virtue of analysing causality in terms of just one of mechanisms or difference (...) making, cannot account for the need for the other kind of evidence. Weber (Int Stud Philos Sci 23(2):277–295, 2009) has suggested to the contrary that Giere’s probabilistic analysis of causality survives this criticism. In this paper, we look in detail at the case of medical imaging technology, which, we argue, supports the thesis of Russo and Williamson, and we respond to Weber’s suggestion, arguing that Giere’s account does not survive the criticism. (shrink)