Getting counterfactuals right: the perspective of the causal reasoner

Synthese 200 (1):1-18 (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

This paper aims to bridge philosophical and psychological research on causation, counterfactual thought, and the problem of backtracking. Counterfactual approaches to causation such as that by Lewis have ruled out backtracking, while on prominent models of causal inference interventionist counterfactuals do not backtrack. However, on various formal models, certain backtracking counterfactuals end up being true, and psychological evidence shows that people do sometimes backtrack when answering counterfactual questions in causal contexts. On the basis of psychological research, I argue that while ordinarily both kinds of counterfactuals may be employed, non-backtracking counterfactuals are more easily used in causal inference because they are consistent with temporal order information embedded in the mental simulation heuristic, and they match reasoners’ experience of causation. While this approach is incompatible with the ambitions of counterfactual theories that seek to establish the non-backtracking interpretation as the only legitimate one, it can provide support for perspectival views on causation and open further inquiry on the functions of causal and counterfactual thought in the context of causal models.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,213

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Counterfactuals and Causal Explanation.James Woodward - 2002 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (1):41 – 72.
Introduction: Understanding Counterfactuals and Causation.Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack & Sarah R. Beck - 2011 - In Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack & Sarah R. Beck (eds.), Understanding Counterfactuals, Understanding Causation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1-15.
Psychological Studies of Causal and Counterfactual Reasoning.James Woodward - 2008 - In Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack & Sarah R. Beck (eds.), Understanding Counterfactuals, Understanding Causation. Oxford University Press. pp. 16.
Of Miracles and Interventions.Luke Glynn - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (1):43-64.
A Lewisian Logic of Causal Counterfactuals.Jiji Zhang - 2013 - Minds and Machines 23 (1):77-93.
A Psychological Approach to Causal Understanding and the Temporal Asymmetry.Elena Popa - 2020 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (4):977-994.
A Dilemma for the Counterfactual Analysis of Causation.S. Barker - 2003 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (1):62 – 77.
Omission Impossible.Sara Bernstein - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (10):2575-2589.

Analytics

Added to PP
2022-02-18

Downloads
30 (#385,731)

6 months
15 (#60,345)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Elena Popa
Jagiellonian University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Causation.David Lewis - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.
Causality.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 45 references / Add more references