What Can Causal Powers Do for Interventionism? The Problem of Logically Complex Causes

In Christopher J. Austin, Anna Marmodoro & Andrea Roselli (eds.), Powers, Parts and Wholes: Essays on the Mereology of Powers. Routledge. pp. 130-141 (2023)
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Abstract

Analyzing causation in terms of Woodward's interventionist theory and describing the structure of the world in terms of causal powers are usually regarded as quite different projects in contemporary philosophy. Interventionists aim to give an account of how causal relations can be empirically discovered and described, without committing themselves to views about what causation really is. Causal powers theorists engage in precisely the latter project, aiming to describe the metaphysical structure of the world. In this paper, I argue that interventionism can benefit from incorporating considerations about causal powers. I describe a previously undiscussed problem for Woodward's definition of an intervention variable that arises when interventionist causal models include disjunctive variables. This problem is solved not by excluding disjunctive (or logically compound) variables per se, but by excluding variables whose values represent disjunctions of too different causal powers. This suggests that interventionism and causal powers theories may be less distant from each other than is often assumed.

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Vera Hoffmann-Kolss
University of Bern

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References found in this work

New work for a theory of universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
Nature's capacities and their measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Nature's Metaphysics: Laws and Properties.Alexander Bird - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Grounding in the image of causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (1):49-100.

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