Authors
Anthony F. Peressini
Marquette University
Abstract
Analyses of singular causation often make use of the idea that a cause increases the probability of its effect. Of particular salience in such accounts are the values of the probability function of the effect, conditional on the presence and absence of the putative cause, analysed around the times of the events in question: causes are characterized by the effect’s probability function being greater when conditionalized upon them. Put this way, it becomes clearer that the ‘behaviour’ of probability functions in small intervals about the times in question ought to be of concern. In this article, I make an extended case that causal theorists employing the ‘probability raising’ idea should pay attention to the continuity question. Specifically, if the probability functions are ‘jumping about’ in ways typical of discontinuous functions, then the stability of the relevant probability increase is called into question. The rub, however, is that sweeping requirements for either continuity or discontinuity are problematic and, as I argue, this constitutes a ‘continuity bind’. Hence more subtle considerations and constraints are needed, two of which I consider: utilizing discontinuous first derivatives of continuous probability functions, and abandoning point probability for imprecise probability. _1_ Introduction _2_ Probability Trajectories and Continuity _2.1_ Probability trajectories _2.2_ Causation as discontinuous jumps _2.3_ Against systematic discontinuity _3_ Broader Discontinuity Concerns _4_ The Continuity Bind _4.1_ Retaining continuity with discontinuous first derivatives _4.2_ Imprecise probability trajectories _5_ Concluding Remarks Appendix
Keywords probabilistic causality  probability  causation  imprecise probability  continuity  chance
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Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axw030
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Causality.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
Making Things Happen. A Theory of Causal Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):233-249.
Belief and the Will.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (5):235-256.

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