Erkenntnis 36 (2):219 - 244 (1992)

Greg Ray
University of Florida
According to Nancy Cartwright, a causal law holds just when a certain probabilistic condition obtains in all test situations which in turn satisfy a set of background conditions. These background conditions are shown to be inconsistent and, on separate account, logically incoherent. I offer a corrective reformulation which also incorporates a strategy for problems like Hesslow's thrombosis case. I also show that Cartwright's recent argument for modifying the condition to appeal to singular causes fails.Proposed modifications of the theory's probabilistic condition to handle effects with extreme probabilities (0 or 1) are found unsatisfactory. I propose a unified solution which also handles extreme causes. Undefined conditional probabilities give rise to three good, but non-equivalent, ways of formulating the theory. Various formulations appear in the literature. I give arguments to eliminate all but one candidate. Finally, I argue for a crucial new condition clause, and show how to extend the results beyond a simple probabilistic framework.
Keywords causal law  probabilistic causation  Nancy Cartwright
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/BF00217474
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 60,021
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
A Probabilistic Theory of Causality.Patrick Suppes - 1968 - Amsterdam: North-Holland Pub. Co..

View all 20 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Contextual Unanimity and the Units of Selection Problem.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (1):118-137.
Probabilistic Causality and Causal Generalizations.Daniel M. Hausman - 2010 - In Ellery Eells & James H. Fetzer (eds.), The Place of Probability in Science. Springer. pp. 47--63.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Probabilistic Causality and Simpson's Paradox.Richard Otte - 1985 - Philosophy of Science 52 (1):110-125.
A Criterion of Probabilistic Causation.Charles R. Twardy & Kevin B. Korb - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (3):241-262.
Agency and Probabilistic Causality.Huw Price - 1991 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42 (2):157-176.
Probabilistic Theories of Causality.Jon Williamson - 2009 - In Helen Beebee, Peter Menzies & Christopher Hitchcock (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Causation. Oxford University Press. pp. 185--212.
A Weaker Condition for Transitivity in Probabilistic Support.William A. Roche - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):111-118.
Probabilistic Explanation and Probabilistic Causality.Joseph F. Hanna - 1982 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:181 - 193.
Declarations of Independence.Branden Fitelson & Alan Hájek - 2017 - Synthese 194 (10):3979-3995.
Probabilistic Causality: Reply to John Dupré.Ellery Eells - 1987 - Philosophy of Science 54 (1):105-114.
Cartwright and Otte on Simpson's Paradox.Ellery Eells - 1987 - Philosophy of Science 54 (2):233-243.


Added to PP index

Total views
64 ( #161,465 of 2,433,538 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #298,810 of 2,433,538 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes