Underdetermination in causal inference


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


One conception of underdetermination is that it corresponds to the impossibility of reliable inquiry. In other words, underdetermination is defined to be the situation where, given a set of background assumptions and a space of hypotheses, it is logically impossible for any hypothesis selection method to meet a given reliability standard. From this perspective, underdetermination in a given subject of inquiry is a matter of interplay between background assumptions and reliability or success criteria. In this paper I discuss underdetermination in causal inference along this line. In particular I will analyze several success criteria that can be applied to causal inference from statistical regularities. The criteria center on the notions of consistency in mathematical statistics. For each criterion I present its epistemic implication in terms of simple conditions under which the criterion cannot possibly be met. I then investigate which of the familiar principles and their variants in the literature, if adopted as background assumptions, are sufficient (or insufficient) to overcome different levels of underdetermination induced by the success criteria. “亚决定性”是知识论和科学哲学中一个重要的概念。对这个概念的一种阐释是把它对应于可靠探索的不可能性。就是说,在一个(经验)问题中,给定一些公设和一些供选择的理论或假说,如果逻辑上不可能找到一种理论选择的方法能满足一定的可靠或成功标准,那么相对于这个标准就存在亚决定性。从这个观点看,亚决定性总是相对于一个问题设定,尤其是公设和成功标准而言的。本文从这个角度对近来的统计因果推理研究作一番梳理。首先,基于数理统计中的一致性概念,我会讨论和分析一系列可应用于因果推理的成功标准。对每一个标准,我会用一个相对简单的条件来刻画它对应的亚决定性。然后我对文献里一部分重要的结果作一个综述,以澄清什么样的公设可以消除什么样的亚决定性。
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-47
Number of pages32
JournalStudies in Logic
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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