Normal Causes for Normal Effects: Reinvigorating the Correspondence Hypothesis About Judgments of Actual Causation

Erkenntnis 82 (6):1299-1320 (2017)
There have been several recent attempts to model ordinary intuitions about actual causation by combining a counterfactual definition of the causal relation with an abnormality-based account of causal judgments. In these models, the underlying psychological theory is that people automatically focus on abnormal events when judging the actual causes of an effect. This approach has enabled authors such as Halpern and Hitchcock to capture an impressive array of ordinary causal intuitions. However, in this paper I demonstrate how these abnormality-based accounts still systematically fail to predict ordinary causal judgments in specific types of scenarios: those in which the effect is normal. I will argue that the reason for this is that the underlying psychological theory is wrong: the idea that intuitive actual causes are abnormal events is only partially correct. To model ordinary judgments more realistically, researchers working in this area must adopt a more plausible underlying psychological theory: the correspondence hypothesis about judgments of actual causation. One of the consequences of this correspondence hypothesis is that normal effects are judged to have normal causes.
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-017-9876-4
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