, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 649-652,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 27 Jun 2012

Searching for the causal connection

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In contemporary debates about causality intuitions play an important role. A typical way of testing a proposed theory of causality is by examining to what extent it accommodates our intuitions about causal relations in concrete cases. We have strong intuitive ideas about what does and what does not qualify as a causal relation when we think, for example, about flagpoles and shadows, barometers and storms, or stones hitting windows. However, the fact that so many different, incompatible theories of causality have been proposed shows that it is difficult, if not impossible, to formulate a general theory that applies to all concrete cases, a single theory that satisfies all intuitions about causality.

One might of course ask why we should want a general theory of causality. One answer is that it can have a normative function, providing guiding principles for scientific practice. For example, a theory of causality is indispensable when designing experiments. If a specific theory that succee ...