Actual causation : a stone soup essay

Clark GLYMOUR, David DANKS, Bruce GLYMOUR, Frederick EBERHARDT, Joseph RAMSEY, Richard SCHEINES, Peter SPIRTES, Choh Man TENG, Jiji ZHANG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We argue that current discussions of criteria for actual causation are ill-posed in several respects. (1) The methodology of current discussions is by induction from intuitions about an infinitesimal fraction of the possible examples and counterexamples; (2) cases with larger numbers of causes generate novel puzzles; (3) "neuron" and causal Bayes net diagrams are, as deployed in discussions of actual causation, almost always ambiguous; (4) actual causation is (intuitively) relative to an initial system state since state changes are relevant, but most current accounts ignore state changes through time; (5) more generally, there is no reason to think that philosophical judgements about these sorts of cases are normative; but (6) there is a dearth of relevant psychological research that bears on whether various philosophical accounts are descriptive. Our skepticism is not directed towards the possibility of a correct account of actual causation; rather, we argue that standard methods will not lead to such an account. A different approach is required. Once upon a time a hungry wanderer came into a village. He filled an iron cauldronwith water, built a fire under it, and dropped a stone into the water. "I do like a tasty stone soup" he announced. Soon a villager added a cabbage to the pot, another added some salt and others added potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was a meal for all.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-192
Number of pages24
JournalSynthese
Volume175
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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meals
intuition
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Water
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Neuron
Salt
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Causes
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Potato
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Keywords

  • Actual causation
  • Bayesian networks
  • Combinatorics
  • Intervention
  • Intuitions

Cite this

GLYMOUR, C., DANKS, D., GLYMOUR, B., EBERHARDT, F., RAMSEY, J., SCHEINES, R., ... ZHANG, J. (2010). Actual causation : a stone soup essay. Synthese, 175(2), 169-192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-009-9497-9
GLYMOUR, Clark ; DANKS, David ; GLYMOUR, Bruce ; EBERHARDT, Frederick ; RAMSEY, Joseph ; SCHEINES, Richard ; SPIRTES, Peter ; TENG, Choh Man ; ZHANG, Jiji. / Actual causation : a stone soup essay. In: Synthese. 2010 ; Vol. 175, No. 2. pp. 169-192.
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GLYMOUR, C, DANKS, D, GLYMOUR, B, EBERHARDT, F, RAMSEY, J, SCHEINES, R, SPIRTES, P, TENG, CM & ZHANG, J 2010, 'Actual causation : a stone soup essay', Synthese, vol. 175, no. 2, pp. 169-192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-009-9497-9

Actual causation : a stone soup essay. / GLYMOUR, Clark; DANKS, David; GLYMOUR, Bruce; EBERHARDT, Frederick; RAMSEY, Joseph; SCHEINES, Richard; SPIRTES, Peter; TENG, Choh Man; ZHANG, Jiji.

In: Synthese, Vol. 175, No. 2, 01.01.2010, p. 169-192.

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

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AU - SCHEINES, Richard

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AU - TENG, Choh Man

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KW - Combinatorics

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KW - Intuitions

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GLYMOUR C, DANKS D, GLYMOUR B, EBERHARDT F, RAMSEY J, SCHEINES R et al. Actual causation : a stone soup essay. Synthese. 2010 Jan 1;175(2):169-192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-009-9497-9