Intervening and Letting Go: On the Adequacy of Equilibrium Causal Models

Erkenntnis 88 (6):2467-2491 (2021)
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Causal representations are distinguished from non-causal ones by their ability to predict the results of interventions. This widely-accepted view suggests the following adequacy condition for causal models: a causal model is adequate only if it does not contain variables regarding which it makes systematically false predictions about the results of interventions. Here I argue that this condition should be rejected. For a class of equilibrium systems, there will be two incompatible causal models depending on whether one intervenes upon a certain variable to fix its value, or ‘lets go’ of the variable and allows it to vary. The latter model will fail to predict the result of interventions on the let-go-of variable. I argue that there is no basis for preferring one of these models to the other, and thus that models failing to predict interventions on particular variables can be just as adequate as those making no such false predictions. This undermines a key argument (Dash in Caveats for causal reasoning with equilibrium models. University of Pittsburgh. PhD thesis, 2003) against relying upon causal models inferred from equilibrium data.



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Naftali Weinberger
Tilburg Center For Logic, Ethics, And Philosophy Of Science (TiLPS - Tilburg University)

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Independence, invariance and the causal Markov condition.Daniel M. Hausman & James Woodward - 1999 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (4):521-583.
Causal Asymmetries.Daniel M. Hausman - 2000 - Mind 109 (436):933-937.
Flagpoles anyone? Causal and explanatory asymmetries.James Woodward - 2022 - Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science 37 (1):7-52.

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