Causal nets, interventionism, and mechanisms: Philosophical foundations and applications

Cham: Springer (2017)
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This monograph looks at causal nets from a philosophical point of view. The author shows that one can build a general philosophical theory of causation on the basis of the causal nets framework that can be fruitfully used to shed new light on philosophical issues. Coverage includes both a theoretical as well as application-oriented approach to the subject. The author first counters David Hume’s challenge about whether causation is something ontologically real. The idea behind this is that good metaphysical concepts should behave analogously to good theoretical concepts in scientific theories. In the process, the author offers support for the theory of causal nets as indeed being a correct theory of causation. Next, the book offers an application-oriented approach to the subject. The author shows that causal nets can investigate philosophical issues related to causation. He does this by means of two exemplary applications. The first consists of an evaluation of Jim Woodward’s interventionist theory of causation. The second offers a contribution to the new mechanist debate. Introductory chapters outline all the formal basics required. This helps make the book useful for those who are not familiar with causal nets, but interested in causation or in tools for the investigation of philosophical issues related to causation.



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Causal Nets and Mechanisms

In this chapter I enter the new mechanist debate within the philosophy of science. I discuss a proposal how to model mechanisms made by Casini, Illari, Russo, and Williamson and present three problems with their approach. I then present my alternative approach of how to represent mechanisms, compare... see more

Causality as a Theoretical Concept

In the first part of this chapter I finish the axiomatization of the causal nets framework started in Chap. 3 I also argue that the causal Markov axiom provides the best explanation for two statistical phenomena. In the second part I present several results about the empirical content of different v... see more

Formal Preliminaries

This chapter introduces the formal concepts required for subsequent chapters. Some notational conventions are maintained and important terms such as ‘relation’, ‘function’, and ‘structure’ are explicated. The probabilistic concepts relevant for later chapters are illustrated. I also explain the most... see more

Causal Nets

In this chapter I give a brief overview of the central notions and definitions of the causal nets framework, which was developed in detail by Pearl and Spirtes, Glymour, and Scheines. I also begin to develop and justify an axiomatization of the causal nets framework, to be continued and finished in ... see more


This chapter provides a brief introduction to the book as well as an overview of the subsequent chapters. The book consists of two main parts: A more theoretical part on the philosophical foundations of the theory of causal Bayes nets and a more application oriented part. The former part supports th... see more

Causal Nets and Woodwardian Interventionism

In this chapter I develop a novel reconstruction of Woodward’s interventionist theory of causation within the theory of causal nets. This endeavor allows one to see in which respects the two theories agree and in which respects they diverge from each other. It also allows for uncovering several weak... see more

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Alexander Gebharter
Marche Polytechnic University

References found in this work

Constitutive Relevance, Mutual Manipulability, and Fat-Handedness.Michael Baumgartner & Alexander Gebharter - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (3):731-756.
Causal Exclusion and Causal Bayes Nets.Alexander Gebharter - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (2):353-375.
Causal Graphs and Biological Mechanisms.Alexander Gebharter & Marie I. Kaiser - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the special sciences: The case of biology and history. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 55-86.
A Formal Framework for Representing Mechanisms?Alexander Gebharter - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (1):138-153.

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