Synthese 191 (10):2089-2113 (2014)

Causal inference plays a central role in behavioral science. Historically, behavioral science methodologies have typically sought to infer a single causal relation. Each of the major approaches to causal inference in the behavioral sciences follows this pattern. Nonetheless, such approaches sometimes differ in the causal relation that they infer. Incremental causal inference offers an alternative to this conceptualization of causal inference that divides the inference into a series of incremental steps. Different steps infer different causal relations. Incremental causal inference is consistent with both causal pluralism and anti-pluralism. However, anti-pluralism places greater constraints the possible topology of sequential inferences. Arguments against causal inference include questioning consistency with causation as an explanatory principle, charging undue complexity, and questioning the need for it. Arguments in favor of incremental inference include better explanation of diverse causal inferences in behavioral science, tailored causal inference, and more detailed and explicit description of causal inference. Incremental causal inference offers a viable and potentially fruitful alternative to approaches limited to a single causal relation
Keywords Causation  Causal inference  Behavioral science  Causal pluralism
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-013-0386-x
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