Path-Specific Effects

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):53-76 (2019)
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A cause may influence its effect via multiple paths. Paradigmatically (Hesslow [1974]), taking birth control pills both decreases one’s risk of thrombosis by preventing pregnancy and increases it by producing a blood chemical. Building on Pearl ([2001]), I explicate the notion of a path-specific effect. Roughly, a path-specific effect of C on E via path P is the degree to which a change in C would change E were they to be transmitted only via P. Facts about such effects may be gleaned from the structural equations commonly used to represent the causal relationships among variables. I contrast my analysis of the Hesslow case with those given by theorists of probabilistic causality, who mistakenly link it to issues of causal heterogeneity, token-causation and indeterminism. The reason probabilistic theories misdiagnose this case is that they pay inadequate attention to the structural relationships among variables.

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

Citations of this work

The metaphysics of causation.Jonathan N. D. Schaffer - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

The metaphysics within physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Nature's capacities and their measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Causality.Judea Pearl - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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