The Interventionist Account of Causation and Non-causal Association Laws

Erkenntnis 78 (1):1-20 (2013)

Maximilian Kistler
Université paris 1
The key idea of the interventionist account of causation is that a variable A causes a variable B if and only if B would change if A were manipulated in the appropriate way. This paper raises two problems for Woodward's (2003) version of interventionism. The first is that the conditions it imposes are not sufficient for causation, because these conditions are also satisfied by non-causal relations of nomological dependence expressed in association laws. Such laws ground a relation of mutual manipulability that is incompatible with the asymmetry of causation. Several ways of defending the interventionist account are examined and found unsatisfying. The second problem is that it often seems to be impossible, in a model that contains variables linked by an association law, to satisfy the conditions imposed on interventions on such variables. Various ways to solve this second problem, most importantly the analysis of manipulability in terms of difference making, are examined. Given that none solves the problem, I conclude that the interventionist conditions are neither sufficient nor necessary for causation. It is suggested that they provide an analysis of nomological dependence, which may be supplemented with the notion of a causal process to yield an analysis of causation
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-013-9437-4
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References found in this work BETA

Causality.Judea Pearl - 2009 - Cambridge University Press.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
Causation as Influence.David K. Lewis - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):182-197.

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Structural Equations and Beyond.Franz Huber - 2013 - Review of Symbolic Logic 6 (4):709-732.
The Agency Theory of Causality, Anthropomorphism, and Simultaneity.Marco Buzzoni - 2014 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (4):375-395.

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