Philosophical Studies

, 147:139

Causal reasoning and backtracking


DOI: 10.1007/s11098-009-9454-y

Cite this article as:
Joyce, J.M. Philos Stud (2010) 147: 139. doi:10.1007/s11098-009-9454-y


I argue that one central aspect of the epistemology of causation, the use of causes as evidence for their effects, is largely independent of the metaphysics of causation. In particular, I use the formalism of Bayesian causal graphs to factor the incremental evidential impact of a cause for its effect into a direct cause-to-effect component and a backtracking component. While the “backtracking” evidence that causes provide about earlier events often obscures things, once we our restrict attention to the cause-to-effect component it is true to say promoting (inhibiting) causes raise (lower) the probabilities of their effects. This factoring assumes the same form whether causation is given an interventionist, counterfactual or probabilistic interpretation. Whether we think about causation in terms of interventions and causal graphs, counterfactuals and imaging functions, or probability raising against the background of causally homogenous partitions, if we describe the essential features of a situation correctly then the incremental evidence that a cause provides for its effect in virtue of being its cause will be the same.


Causal inference Incremental evidence Bayesian causal graph Markov condition Imaging Backtracking counterfactual Probabilistic causation 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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