We start this paper by arguing that causality should, in analogy with force in Newtonian physics, be understood as a theoretical concept that is not explicated by a single definition, but by the axioms of a theory. Such an understanding of causality implicitly underlies the well-known theory of causal nets and has been explicitly promoted by Glymour. In this paper we investigate the explanatory warrant and empirical content of TCN. We sketch how the assumption of directed cause–effect relations can be (...) philosophically justified by an inference to the best explanation. We then ask whether the explanations provided by TCN are merely post-facto or have independently testable empirical content. To answer this question we develop a fine-grained axiomatization of TCN, including a distinction of different kinds of faithfulness. A number of theorems show that although the core axioms of TCN are empirically empty, extended versions of TCN have successively increasing empirical content. (shrink)
The first part of this paper argues that if Craver’s ([2007a], [2007b]) popular mutual manipulability account (MM) of mechanistic constitution is embedded within Woodward’s () interventionist theory of causation--for which it is explicitly designed--it either undermines the mechanistic research paradigm by entailing that there do not exist relationships of constitutive relevance or it gives rise to the unwanted consequence that constitution is a form of causation. The second part shows how Woodward’s theory can be adapted in such a way that (...) (MM) neither undermines the mechanistic paradigm nor reduces constitution to causation. However, it turns out that this modified theoretical embedding of (MM) makes it impossible to produce empirical evidence for constitutive relations. The paper ends by suggesting an additional criterion, the fat-handedness criterion, which, when combined with (MM), generates indirect empirical evidence for constitutive relevance. (shrink)
In this paper I reconstruct and evaluate the validity of two versions of causal exclusion arguments within the theory of causal Bayes nets. I argue that supervenience relations formally behave like causal relations. If this is correct, then it turns out that both versions of the exclusion argument are valid when assuming the causal Markov condition and the causal minimality condition. I also investigate some consequences for the recent discussion of causal exclusion arguments in the light of an interventionist theory (...) of causation such as Woodward's (2003) and discuss a possible objection to my causal Bayes net reconstruction. (shrink)
In this article I tackle the question of how the hierarchical order of mechanisms can be represented within a causal graph framework. I illustrate an answer to this question proposed by Casini, Illari, Russo, and Williamson and provide an example that their formalism does not support two important features of nested mechanisms: (i) a mechanism’s submechanisms are typically causally interacting with other parts of said mechanism, and (ii) intervening in some of a mechanism’s parts should have some influence on the (...) phenomena the mechanism brings about. Finally, I sketch an alternative approach taking (i) and (ii) into account. (shrink)
Modeling mechanisms is central to the biological sciences – for purposes of explanation, prediction, extrapolation, and manipulation. A closer look at the philosophical literature reveals that mechanisms are predominantly modeled in a purely qualitative way. That is, mechanistic models are conceived of as representing how certain entities and activities are spatially and temporally organized so that they bring about the behavior of the mechanism in question. Although this adequately characterizes how mechanisms are represented in biology textbooks, contemporary biological research practice (...) shows the need for quantitative, probabilistic models of mechanisms, too. In this paper we argue that the formal framework of causal graph theory is well-suited to provide us with models of biological mechanisms that incorporate quantitative and probabilistic information. On the ba-sis of an example from contemporary biological practice, namely feedback regulation of fatty acid biosynthesis in Brassica napus, we show that causal graph theoretical models can account for feedback as well as for the multi-level character of mechanisms. However, we do not claim that causal graph theoretical representations of mechanisms are advantageous in all respects and should replace common qualitative models. Rather, we endorse the more balanced view that causal graph theoretical models of mechanisms are useful for some purposes, while being insufficient for others. (shrink)
This monograph looks at causal nets from a philosophical point of view. The author shows that one can build a general philosophical theory of causation on the basis of the causal nets framework that can be fruitfully used to shed new light on philosophical issues. Coverage includes both a theoretical as well as application-oriented approach to the subject. The author first counters David Hume’s challenge about whether causation is something ontologically real. The idea behind this is that good metaphysical concepts (...) should behave analogously to good theoretical concepts in scientific theories. In the process, the author offers support for the theory of causal nets as indeed being a correct theory of causation. Next, the book offers an application-oriented approach to the subject. The author shows that causal nets can investigate philosophical issues related to causation. He does this by means of two exemplary applications. The first consists of an evaluation of Jim Woodward’s interventionist theory of causation. The second offers a contribution to the new mechanist debate. Introductory chapters outline all the formal basics required. This helps make the book useful for those who are not familiar with causal nets, but interested in causation or in tools for the investigation of philosophical issues related to causation. (shrink)
Mechanisms play an important role in many sciences when it comes to questions concerning explanation, prediction, and control. Answering such questions in a quantitative way requires a formal represention of mechanisms. Gebharter (2014) suggests to represent mechanisms by means of one or more causal arrows of an acyclic causal net. In this paper we show how this approach can be extended in such a way that it can also be fruitfully applied to mechanisms featuring causal feedback.
Casini, Illari, Russo, and Williamson (2011) suggest to model mechanisms by means of recursive Bayesian networks (RBNs) and Clarke, Leuridan, and Williamson (2014) extend their modelling approach to mechanisms featuring causal feedback. One of the main selling points of the RBN approach should be that it provides answers to questions concerning manipulation and control. In this paper I demonstrate that the method to compute the effects of interventions the authors mentioned endorse leads to absurd results under the additional assumption of (...) faithfulness, which can be expected to hold for many RBN models of mechanisms. (shrink)
In this paper we show that the application of Occam’s razor to the theory of causal Bayes nets gives us a neat definition of direct causation. In particular we show that Occam’s razor implies Woodward’s (2003) definition of direct causation, provided suitable intervention variables exist and the causal Markov condition (CMC) is satisfied. We also show how Occam’s razor can account for direct causal relationships Woodward style when only stochastic intervention variables are available.
In (Gebharter 2014) I suggested a framework for modeling the hierarchical organization of mechanisms. In this short addendum I want to highlight some connections of my approach to the statistics and machine learning literature and some of its limitations not mentioned in the paper.
In this paper I demonstrate that the causal structure of flagpole-like systems can be determined by application of causal graph theory. Additional information about the ordering of events in time or about how parameters of the systems of interest can be manipulated is not needed.
In his Critique of Pure Reason Immanuel Kant presents four antinomies. In his attempt to solve the first of these antinomies he examines and analyzes thesis and antithesis more thoroughly and employs the terms `part', `whole' and `boundary' in his argumentation for their validity. According to Kant, the whole problem surrounding the antinomy was caused by applying the concept of the world to nature and then using both terms interchangeably. While interesting, this solution is still not that much more than (...) a well thought out idea if it does not also include an adequate formal explication. Since the aforementioned terms all have counterparts in modern mereotopology, a discipline that has seen significant progress in recent times, we will apply these concepts to Kant's analysis in an attempt to evaluate Kant's solution in light of modern analytic philosophy. (shrink)
Hitchcock demonstrated that the validity of causal exclusion arguments as well as the plausibility of several of their premises hinges on the specific theory of causation endorsed. In this paper I show that the validity of causal exclusion arguments—if represented within the theory of causal Bayes nets the way Gebharter suggests—actually requires much weaker premises than the ones which are typically assumed. In particular, neither completeness of the physical domain nor the no overdetermination assumption are required.
An overview of the German philosophy of science community is given for the years 1992–2012, based on a survey in which 159 philosophers of science in Germany participated. To this end, the institutional background of the German philosophy of science community is examined in terms of journals, centers, and associations. Furthermore, a qualitative description and a quantitative analysis of our survey results are presented. Quantitative estimates are given for: (a) academic positions, (b) research foci, (c) philosophers’ of science most important (...) publications, and (d) externally funded projects, where for (c) all survey participants had indicated their five most important publications in philosophy of science. In addition, the survey results for (a)–(c) are also qualitatively described, as they are interesting in their own right. With respect to (a), we estimated the gender distribution among academic positions. Concerning (c), we quantified philosophers’ of science preference for (i) journals and publishers, (ii) publication format, (iii) language, and (iv) coauthorship for their most important publications. With regard to research projects, we determined their (i) prevalence, (ii) length, and (iii) trend (an increase in number?) as well as their most frequent (iv) research foci and (v) funding organizations. We also distinguished between German-based and non-German-based journals, publishers, and funding institutions, making it thereby possible to evaluate the involvement of the German philosophy of science community in the international research landscape. Finally, we discuss some implications of our findings. (shrink)
For a better understanding of causality Content Type Journal Article Category Essay Review Pages 1-6 DOI 10.1007/s11016-012-9648-3 Authors Alexander Gebharter, Department of Philosophy, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstraße 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany Gerhard Schurz, Department of Philosophy, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstraße 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
In this paper I argue that constitutive relevance relations in mechanisms behave like a special kind of causal relation in at least one important respect: Under suitable circumstances constitutive relevance relations produce the Markov factorization. Based on this observation one may wonder whether standard methods for causal discovery could be fruitfully applied to uncover constitutive relevance relations. This paper is intended as a first step into this new area of philosophical research. I investigate to what extent the PC algorithm, originally (...) developed for causal search, can be used for constitutive relevance discovery. I also discuss possible objections and certain limitations of a constitutive relevance discovery procedure based on PC. (shrink)
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a cancer of the hematopoietic system initiated by a single genetic mutation which results in the oncogenic fusion protein Bcr-Abl. Untreated, patients pass through different phases of the disease beginning with the rather asymptomatic chronic phase and ultimately culminating into blast crisis, an acute leukemia resembling phase with a very high mortality. Although many processes underlying the chronic phase are well understood, the exact mechanisms of disease progression to blast crisis are not yet revealed. In (...) this paper we develop a mathematical model of CML based on causal Bayesian networks in order to study possible disease progression mechanisms. Our results indicate that an increase of Bcr-Abl levels alone is not sufficient to explain the phenotype of blast crisis and that secondary changes such as additional mutations are necessary to explain disease progression and the poor therapy response of patients in blast crisis. (shrink)
Ever since it was discovered that hallucinations and illusions are not all that compatible with our natural view of the relation between the perceiving subject and the perceived object, according to which we always perceive the object itself (or, as most epistemologists prefer to say, we perceive it directly), the philosophical position of Direct (or Naïve) Realism which is meant to be the epistemological equivalent of this view, has begun to falter. To express these problems more explicitly, the argument from (...) hallucination and the argument from illusion were created and brought direct realists in dire need of explaining how phenomenons such as hallucinations and illusions could possibly go together with their position. One of the main direct (or naïve) realists’ responses to these arguments is Disjunctivism, a position that, while being able to efficiently deal with both arguments, is subject to quite a few problems in its postulations as well. The intuitive plausibility of both arguments seems to have led many a philosopher to take their validity for granted. Because of this, it will be attempted to give an accurate and adequate reformulation of both arguments in this paper to find out whether their impact on the philosophy of perception is justified in the first place. (shrink)