25 April 2019

A Principled Definition of Actual Causation

In this talk we present a new proposal for defining actual causation, i.e., defining when one event caused another. We do so within the popular counterfactual tradition initiated by Lewis, which is characterised by attributing a fundamental role to counterfactual dependence.

Unlike the currently prominent definitions, our approach proceeds from the ground up: we start from basic principles, and construct a definition of causation that satisfies them. We define the concepts of counterfactual dependence and production, and put forward principles such that dependence is an unnecessary but sufficient condition for causation, whereas production is an insufficient but necessary condition. The resulting definition of causation is a suitable compromise between dependence and production. Every principle is introduced by means of a paradigmatic example of causation. Further, we explore the (in)transitivity of causation and explain why it has been the source of so much discussion. We make all of this formally precise using structural equations, which we extend with a timing over all events.


When: 2 May 2019, 17:30-18:30 (free drinks afterwards)
Waar: Drift 25, 0.02
Speaker: Sander Beckers (UU)