Intervention and Causation   Intervention and Causation:   A Philosophical Perspective          Victor Gijsbers (Philosoph...
Causation●   A central topic in modern philosophy.●   Why believe that philosophy could teach us    something about causat...
Intervention●   Central notion in current debates: intervention.        –   Pearl, Causality (2000)        –   Woodward, M...
Overview●   Causation seems to be:       –   important,       –   modal.●   Main development in theories of causation:    ...
Importance of causation●   Why do scientists care about causation?●   “The law of causality, I believe, like much that    ...
Importance of causation●   Science is interested in functional relations.        –   pV = NkT        –   number of people ...
Importance of causation●   The functional relations by themselves are not    guides to action.●   We want to know about ca...
Causation and modality●   Some of our statements are about what actually    happens; others are about modal facts.        ...
Causation and modality●   Causation seems to be closely linked to    modality.●   If A caused B, then, if A had not happen...
Causation●   Summarising, causation seems to be:        –   important        –   modal.●   Suggestive links with action (b...
Reductive theories●   Reductive, regularity theories of causation.        –   Modal facts have to be reduced to facts abou...
Reductive theories●   Science is based on what we see.●   Objection: it is also based on what we do.●   Do → see → science...
Reductive theories●   We want to analyse causation in terms of    observed relations between event types.●   Most simple t...
Counterexamples●   There is constant conjunction without    causation. For instance:        –   Common cause structures.  ...
Counterexamples●   Reductive theories fail to capture the modal    aspect of causation.●   They fail less often when we ad...
Interventionism●   Very rough example of an interventionist theory    of causation:       –   A causes B ↔ by intervening ...
Using intervention●   We do use interventions to test causal claims.    Is A a cause of B? We intervene on A, and    check...
Interventionism●   Havent we just added another causal variable?●   Reductive way of thinking: we perform    interventions...
Interventionism●   Remember our statement of interventionism:        –   A causes B ↔ by intervening on A, we can         ...
Interventionism●   But why would modality be connected with our    doing of things?●   Because when we do things, we make ...
Interventionism●   Beings who could only see things, but could not    do things, would not be interested in causation.●   ...
Conclusion●   But it is also no surprise that theories about    causal modelling and causal inference can    make good use...
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Transcript of "Kick off meeting gijsbers"

  1. 1. Intervention and Causation Intervention and Causation: A Philosophical Perspective Victor Gijsbers (Philosophy, Universiteit Leiden) 2012-10-05
  2. 2. Causation● A central topic in modern philosophy.● Why believe that philosophy could teach us something about causation?● The idea and use of philosophical analysis.
  3. 3. Intervention● Central notion in current debates: intervention. – Pearl, Causality (2000) – Woodward, Making Things Happen (2003)● Using intervention to understand causation.● Why is that a good idea?
  4. 4. Overview● Causation seems to be: – important, – modal.● Main development in theories of causation: – From reductive analyses – to interventionist analyses.
  5. 5. Importance of causation● Why do scientists care about causation?● “The law of causality, I believe, like much that passes muster among philosophers, is a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm.” – (Russell, On the Notion of Cause, 1912)
  6. 6. Importance of causation● Science is interested in functional relations. – pV = NkT – number of people infected = F(population density, quality of sanitation, availability of hospitals, …) – P(number of people infected) = F(population density, quality of sanitation, availability of hospitals, …)● So why be interested in causation?
  7. 7. Importance of causation● The functional relations by themselves are not guides to action.● We want to know about cause and effect.● But what is the relation between causation and functional relations?
  8. 8. Causation and modality● Some of our statements are about what actually happens; others are about modal facts. – What could happen. – What must happen. – What would happen, if...● Modal statements play an important role in planning, justifying, assigning blame and credit.
  9. 9. Causation and modality● Causation seems to be closely linked to modality.● If A caused B, then, if A had not happened, B would not have happened.● That doesnt quite work... but intuitively, something in the vicinity should.
  10. 10. Causation● Summarising, causation seems to be: – important – modal.● Suggestive links with action (but at this point, no more than suggestive).
  11. 11. Reductive theories● Reductive, regularity theories of causation. – Modal facts have to be reduced to facts about what actually happens. – Actions should not appear in the theory.● Why? Because our scientific knowledge is based on what we see. Anything else would be superstition, pseudoscience, empty speculation.● And we only see what is actual.
  12. 12. Reductive theories● Science is based on what we see.● Objection: it is also based on what we do.● Do → see → science.● Doing falls out of the equation when we think about the justification of our theories.
  13. 13. Reductive theories● We want to analyse causation in terms of observed relations between event types.● Most simple theory is the constant conjunction theory (Hume, 1748): – A causes B ↔ whenever A happens, B happens immediately afterwards● Can be changed to accommodate probabilistic relationships.
  14. 14. Counterexamples● There is constant conjunction without causation. For instance: – Common cause structures. – “Accidental” conjunction.● Both are important to recognise in actual scientific research.
  15. 15. Counterexamples● Reductive theories fail to capture the modal aspect of causation.● They fail less often when we add more causal variables. Still – this doesnt look like the right way. There always remains the possibility of accident.● Which we can accept in practice, but not when we want to know the meaning of causation.
  16. 16. Interventionism● Very rough example of an interventionist theory of causation: – A causes B ↔ by intervening on A, we can change B.● Why would talking about interventions help?
  17. 17. Using intervention● We do use interventions to test causal claims. Is A a cause of B? We intervene on A, and check whether B is still probabilistically related to A. – Yes? Causation! – No? No causation!● Both conclusions can be wrong.
  18. 18. Interventionism● Havent we just added another causal variable?● Reductive way of thinking: we perform interventions so that we can determine a set of functional relationships that we are interested in.● The doing is merely there to serve the seeing.● The possibility of accident remains.
  19. 19. Interventionism● Remember our statement of interventionism: – A causes B ↔ by intervening on A, we can change B.● This is an inherently modal claim. We set A = 1, and what happens is B = 1. But this only counts as a changing of B, if it is that case that had we set A = 0, then B would not have been 1.● Something counts as a successful intervention only if the effect was not accidental.
  20. 20. Interventionism● But why would modality be connected with our doing of things?● Because when we do things, we make choices. [Insert difficult questions about free will here.]● It is when we think about our future plans, about what we want to change, and so on, that we start thinking modally; and that we start to get interested in causation.
  21. 21. Interventionism● Beings who could only see things, but could not do things, would not be interested in causation.● What is more: they could not have the concept of causation. We can only understand causation because of the modality of action.● It is therefore no surprise that a philosophical analysis of causation must use a term like intervention.
  22. 22. Conclusion● But it is also no surprise that theories about causal modelling and causal inference can make good use of the notion of intervention.● Because claims about causation turn out to be claims about the effects of actions.● Reminder: this is a controversial story!

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