Philosophical Studies 175 (4):885-902 (2018)

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Abstract
The aim of this paper is to determine whether and to what extent Woodward’s interventionist theory of causation is variable relative. In an influential review, Strevens has accused Woodward’s account of a damaging form of variable relativity, according to which obviously false causal claims can be made true by choosing a depleted variable set. Following McCain, I show that Strevens’ objection doesn’t succeed. However, Woodward also wants to avoid another kind of variable relativity, according to which it can be true that X is a cause of Y in one set of background conditions, but false in another. I show that Woodward’s account is problematically overpermissive, unless there are restrictions on the values that certain variables can take. I formulate a modified account that makes these restrictions explicit, then use it to argue that Woodward’s attempt to avoid relativity to background conditions is misguided. On the best interpretation of the interventionist theory, causal claims are assessed relative to a particular kind of variable set. Thus, I conclude that the theory should be understood as variable relative, in a specific, unproblematic sense.
Keywords Causation
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-017-0897-2
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References found in this work BETA

Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
Contrastive Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (3):327-358.

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Citations of this work BETA

Actual Causation.Enno Fischer - 2021 - Dissertation, Leibniz Universität Hannover

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