Causation, Responsibility, and Typicality

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 12 (4):699-719 (2020)
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There is ample evidence that violations of injunctive norms impact ordinary causal attributions. This has struck some as deeply surprising, taking the ordinary concept of causation to be purely descriptive. Our explanation of the findings—the responsibility view—rejects this: we contend that the concept is in fact partly normative, being akin to concepts like responsibility and accountability. Based on this account, we predicted a very different pattern of results for causal attributions when an agent violates a statistical norm. And this pattern has been borne out by the data. These predictions were based on the responsibility attributions that we would make. In this paper, I extend these previous findings, testing responsibility attributions. The results confirm the basis of our predictions, showing the same pattern of effects previously found for causal attributions for both injunctive norms and statistical norms. In fact, the results for responsibility attributions are not statistically significantly different from those previously found for causal attributions. I argue that this close correspondence lends further credence to the responsibility view over competing explanations of the impact of norms on causal attributions.



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Justin Sytsma
Victoria University of Wellington

References found in this work

Cause and Norm.Christopher Hitchcock & Joshua Knobe - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (11):587-612.
Person as scientist, person as moralist.Joshua Knobe - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.
Graded Causation and Defaults.Joseph Y. Halpern & Christopher Hitchcock - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):413-457.

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