Causation is at once familiar and mysterious. Neither common sense nor extensive philosophical debate has led us to anything like agreement on the correct analysis of the concept of causation, or an account of the metaphysical nature of the causal relation. Causation: A User's Guide cuts a clear path through this confusing but vital landscape. L. A. Paul and Ned Hall guide the reader through the most important philosophical treatments of causation, negotiating the terrain by taking a set of examples (...) as landmarks. They clarify the central themes of the debate about causation, and cover questions about causation involving omissions or absences, preemption and other species of redundant causation, and the possibility that causation is not transitive. Along the way, Paul and Hall examine several contemporary proposals for analyzing the nature of causation and assess their merits and overall methodological cogency.The book is designed to be of value both to trained specialists and those coming to the problem of causation for the first time. It provides the reader with a broad and sophisticated view of the metaphysics of the causal relation. (shrink)
Structural equations have become increasingly popular in recent years as tools for understanding causation. But standard structural equations approaches to causation face deep problems. The most philosophically interesting of these consists in their failure to incorporate a distinction between default states of an object or system, and deviations therefrom. Exploring this problem, and how to fix it, helps to illuminate the central role this distinction plays in our causal thinking.
David Lewis's influential work on the epistemology and metaphysics of objective chance has convinced many philosophers of the central importance of the following two claims: First, it is a serious cost of reductionist positions about chance (such as that occupied by Lewis) that they are, apparently, forced to modify the Principal Principle--the central principle relating objective chance to rational subjective probability--in order to avoid contradiction. Second, it is a perhaps more serious cost of the rival non-reductionist position that, unlike reductionism, (...) it can give no coherent explanation for why the Principal Principle should hold. I argue that both of these claims are fundamentally mistaken. (shrink)
Among the many philosophers who hold that causal facts1 are to be explained in terms of—or more ambitiously, shown to reduce to—facts about what happens, together with facts about the fundamental laws that govern what happens, the clear favorite is an approach that sees counterfactual dependence as the key to such explanation or reduction. The paradigm examples of causation, so advocates of this approach tell us, are examples in which events c and e— the cause and its effect— both occur, (...) but: had c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. From this starting point ideas proliferate in a vast profusion. But the remarkable disparity among these ideas should not obscure their common foundation. Neither should the diversity of opinion about the prospects for a philosophical analysis of causation obscure their importance. For even those philosophers who see these prospects as dim—perhaps because they suffer post-Quinean queasiness at the thought of any analysis of any concept of interest—can often be heard to say such things as that causal relations among events are somehow “a matter of” the patterns of counterfactual dependence to be found in them. (shrink)
The ‘Principal Principle’ states, roughly, that one's subjective probability for a proposition should conform to one's beliefs about that proposition's objective chance of coming true. David Lewis has argued (i) that this principle provides the defining role for chance; (ii) that it conflicts with his reductionist thesis of Humean supervenience, and so must be replaced by an amended version that avoids the conflict; hence (iii) that nothing perfectly deserves the name ‘chance’, although something can come close enough by playing the (...) role picked out by the amended principle. We show that in fact there must be ‘chances’ that perfectly play what Lewis takes to be the defining role. But this is not the happy conclusion it might seem, since these ‘chances’ behave too strangely to deserve the name. The lesson is simple: much more than the Principal Principle—more to the point, much more than the connection between chance and credence—informs our understanding of objective chance. 1 Introduction 2 Preliminaries 3 Undermining futures and the New Principle 4 The Old Principle rescued? 5 The New Bug 6 Conclusion. (shrink)
There are two central questions concerning probability. First, what are its formal features? That is a mathematical question, to which there is a standard, widely (though not universally) agreed upon answer. This answer is reviewed in the next section. Second, what sorts of things are probabilities---what, that is, is the subject matter of probability theory? This is a philosophical question, and while the mathematical theory of probability certainly bears on it, the answer must come from elsewhere. To see why, observe (...) that there are many things in the world that have the mathematical structure of probabilities---the set of measurable regions on the surface of a table, for example---but that one would never mistake for being probabilities. So probability is distinguished by more than just its formal characteristics. The bulk of this essay will be taken up with the central question of what this “more” might be. (shrink)
The professor announces a surprise exam for the upcoming week; her clever student purports to demonstrate by reductio that she cannot possibly give such an exam. Diagnosing his puzzling argument reveals a deeper puzzle: Is the student justified in believing the announcement? It would seem so, particularly if the upcoming 'week' is long enough. On the other hand, a plausible principle states that if, at the outset, the student is justified in believing some proposition, then he is also justified in (...) believing that he will continue to be justified in believing that proposition. It follows from this 'confidence' principle that the student is not justified in believing the announcement, regardless of the number of days in the week. I argue that the key to resolving this dilemma is to distinguish the confidence principle from a slightly weaker principle governing the student's justified degrees of belief. Representing these degrees of belief as probabilities, and taking 'justified belief' to mean 'justified degree of belief above a certain threshold', I show that we can uphold the weaker, probabilistic analog to the confidence principle, and maintain that, provided the 'week' is long enough, the student can justifiably believe the announcement. The resulting probabilistic analysis of the story leads to a new diagnosis of the logical flaw in the student's reasoning, and suggests, finally, that even those early stages of it which are logically impeccable exhibit another kind of flaw: circularity. (shrink)
The requirement of randomization in experimental design was first stated by R. A. Fisher, statistician and geneticist, in 1925 in his book Statistical Methods for Research Workers. Earlier designs were systematic and involved the judgment of the experimenter; this led to possible bias and inaccurate interpretation of the data. Fisher's dictum was that randomization eliminates bias and permits a valid test of significance. Randomization in experimenting had been used by Charles Sanders Peirce in 1885 but the practice was not continued. (...) Fisher developed his concepts of randomizing as he considered the mathematics of small samples, in discussions with "Student," William Sealy Gosset. Fisher published extensively. His principles of experimental design were spread worldwide by the many "voluntary workers" who came from other institutions to Rothamsted Agricultural Station in England to learn Fisher's methods. (shrink)
Arguably, Hume's greatest single contribution to contemporary philosophy of science has been the problem of induction (1739). Before attempting its statement, we need to spend a few words identifying the subject matter of this corner of epistemology. At a first pass, induction concerns ampliative inferences drawn on the basis of evidence (presumably, evidence acquired more or less directly from experience)—that is, inferences whose conclusions are not (validly) entailed by the premises. Philosophers have historically drawn further distinctions, often appropriating the term (...) “induction” to mark them; since we will not be concerned with the philosophical issues for which these distinctions are relevant, we will use the word “inductive” in a catch-all sense synonymous with “ampliative”. But we will follow the usual practice of choosing, as our paradigm example of inductive inferences, inferences about the future based on evidence drawn from the past and present. A further refinement is more important. Opinion typically comes in degrees, and this fact makes a great deal of difference to how we understand inductive inferences. For while it is often harmless to talk about the conclusions that can be rationally believed on the basis of some.. (shrink)
There are, by now, many rival, sophisticated philosophical accounts of causation that qualify as ‘metaphysically reductive’. This is a good thing: these collective efforts have vastly improved our understanding of causation over the last 30 years or so. They also put us in an excellent position to reflect on some central methodological questions: What exactly is the point of offering a metaphysical reduction of causation? What philosophical scruples ought to guide the pursuit of such a reduction? Finally, how should answers (...) to these latter questions affect one’s assessment of the main contemporary approaches? That’s what we investigate in this essay. Section 1 lays out our presuppositions. Section 2 reviews a sample of philosophical accounts. Then comes the main event: Section 3 looks in detail at the foregoing methodological questions, closing with a reconsideration of our sample accounts, in light of what we’ve found. (shrink)
Lewis's work on causation was governed by a familiar methodological approach: the aim was to come up with an account of causation that would recover, in as elegant a fashion as possible, all of our firm “pre‐theoretic” intuitions about hypothetical cases. That methodology faces an obvious challenge, in that it is not clear why anyone not interested in the semantics of the English word “cause” should care about its results. Better to take a different approach, one which treats our intuitions (...) about cases merely as guides in the construction of a causal concept or concepts that will serve some useful theoretical purpose. I sketch one central such purpose, suggesting, first, that an account of causation that, like Lewis's, gives a central role to counterfactuals is well‐suited to fulfill it, and, second, that the most famous pre‐emption‐based counterexamples to a counterfactual account yield an important constraint on a successful account. (shrink)
Jonardon Ganeri, Paul Noordhof, and Murali Ramachandran (1996) have proposed a new counterfactual analysis of causation. We argue that this – the PCA-analysis – is incorrect. In section 1, we explain David Lewis’s ﬁrst counterfactual analysis of causation, and a problem that led him to propose a second. In section 2 we explain the PCA-analysis, advertised as an improvement on Lewis’s later account. We then give counterexamples to the necessity (section 3) and sufﬁciency (section 4) of the PCA-analysis.
The textbook presentation of quantum mechanics, in a nutshell, is this. The physical state of any isolated system evolves deterministically in accordance with Schrödinger's equation until a "measurement" of some physical magnitude M (e.g. position, energy, spin) is made. Restricting attention to the case where the values of M are discrete, the system's pre-measurement state-vector f is a linear combination, or "superposition", of vectors f1, f2,... that individually represent states that..
What is the compositional structure of reality? That question divides naturally into these two: What is the compositional structure of the particulars that populate reality? And what is the structure of the properties and relations that fix what these entities are like? David Lewis‘s work in ontology and mereology provides the materials for an extraordinarily clean answer to the first question. First, among the particulars1 that populate reality are mereological simples: entities that have no proper parts. Second, every collection of (...) such entities has a unique mereological fusion. And third, every particular is either a simple, or a fusion of simples.2 That‘s it. I propose to take this answer on board.3 What, then, about our second question? Here it looks as though we can draw on an additional Lewisian thesis: Joints: There is a distinction — at the level of metaphysics — between more and less natural properties. Some properties are perfectly natural; others are less-but-still-quite natural; still others are not very natural at all. This distinction earns its philosophical keep because of the number and centrality of the philosophical projects that must presuppose it. And to say that this distinction resides at the level of metaphysics is, at least in part, to say that it is not grounded in facts about human psychology. (shrink)
Social licence to operate (SLO) is the ongoing acceptance or approval for a development that is granted by the local community and other stakeholders. From the current media and political attention on Australian wind farms, it appears that many specific wind farms, or indeed the industry as a whole, may not hold an SLO with affected stakeholders. This research was undertaken to examine whether the SLO might be a useful framework to enhance engagement and increase societal understanding of wind farms. (...) Twenty-seven interviews across nine wind farms were conducted with stakeholders representing wind companies, local government authorities, local opposition, local support and turbine hosts. The interviews revealed a complexity of concerns that informed the stakeholders’ perspectives, including “game-changing” issues that may stand to significantly increase wind farm acceptance. The results are presented with practical steps towards the development of a preliminary working model of an SLO for Australian wind f.. (shrink)
The goal of this small book and accompanying DVD is to help you to have a better experience in your laboratory by getting you to step back and take a global look at what is involved in making progress in the laboratory.