# Causality as a theoretical concept: explanatory warrant and empirical content of the theory of causal nets

- 400 Downloads
- 13 Citations

## Abstract

We start this paper by arguing that causality should, in analogy with force in Newtonian physics, be understood as a theoretical concept that is not explicated by a single definition, but by the axioms of a theory. Such an understanding of causality implicitly underlies the well-known theory of causal (Bayes) nets (TCN) and has been explicitly promoted by Glymour (Br J Philos Sci 55:779–790, 2004). In this paper we investigate the explanatory warrant and empirical content of TCN. We sketch how the assumption of directed cause–effect relations can be philosophically justified by an inference to the best explanation. We then ask whether the explanations provided by TCN are merely post-facto or have independently testable empirical content. To answer this question we develop a fine-grained axiomatization of TCN, including a distinction of different kinds of faithfulness. A number of theorems show that although the core axioms of TCN are empirically empty, extended versions of TCN have successively increasing empirical content.

## Keywords

Screening off Linking up Axioms for causal nets Inference to the best explanation Empirical content## Notes

### Acknowledgments

This work was supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, research unit “Causation \({\vert }\) Laws \({\vert }\) Dispositions \({\vert }\) Explanation” (FOR 1063). For important discussions we are indebted to Clark Glymour, Paul Näger, Jon Williamson, Peter Spirtes, Mathias Frisch, Michael Baumgartner, Andreas Hüttemann, Oliver Scholz, Markus Schrenk, Stathis Psillos and Marie Kaiser.

## References

- Armstrong, D. M. (1983).
*What is a law of nature?*. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Balzer, W., Moulines, C. U., & Sneed, J. D. (1987).
*An architectonic for science*. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Beebee, H., Hitchcock, C., & Menzies, P. (Eds.). (2009).
*The Oxford handbook of causation*. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar - Blalock, H. (1961). Correlation and causality: The multivariate case.
*Social Forces*,*39*, 246–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Carnap, R. (1956). The methodological character of theoretical concepts. In H. Feigl & M. Scriven (Eds.),
*The foundations of science*(pp. 38–76). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar - Carnap, R. (1971). A basic system of inductive logic, Part I. In R. Carnap & R. Jeffrey (Eds.),
*Studies in inductive logic and probability*(pp. 33–166). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar - Cartwright, N. (1999).
*The dappled world: A study of the boundaries of science*. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Cartwright, N. (2007).
*Hunting causes and using them*. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Eberhardt, F., & Scheines, R. (2007). Interventions and causal inference.
*Philosophy of Science*,*74*, 981–995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Fales, E. (1990).
*Causation and universals*. London: Routledge.Google Scholar - French, S. (2008). The structure of theories. In S. Psillos & M. Curd (Eds.),
*The Routledge companion to philosophy of science*(pp. 269–280). London: Routledge.Google Scholar - Friedman, M. (1974). Explanation and scientific understanding.
*Journal of Philosophy*,*71*, 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Glymour, C. (2004). Critical notice.
*British Journal for the Philosophy of Science*,*55*, 779–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Hausman, D. (1998).
*Causal asymmetries*. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Healey, R. (2009). Causation in quantum mechanics. In H. Beebee et al. (Eds.),
*The Oxford handbook of causation*(pp. 673–686). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar - Hitchcock, C. (2010). Probabilistic causation. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.),
*Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy*(Winter 2011 ed). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2011/entries/causation-probabilistic/. - Hoover, K. (2001).
*Causality in macroeconomics*. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Kitcher, P. (1989). Explanatory unification and the causal structure of the world. In P. Kitcher & W. Salmon (Eds.),
*Scientific explanation*(pp. 410–505). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar - Lauritzen, S. L., Dawid, A. P., Larsen, B. N., & Leimer, H.-G. (1990). Independence properties of directed Markov-fields.
*Networks*,*20*, 491–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Lewis, D. (1970). How to define theoretical terms.
*Journal of Philosophy*,*67*, 427–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - McDermott, M. (1995). Redundant causation.
*British Journal for the Philosophy of Science*,*40*, 523–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Norton, J. D. (2009). Is there an independent principle of causality in physics?
*British Journal for the Philosphy of Science*,*60*, 475–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Papineau, D. (1992). Can we reduce causal direction to probabilities? In
*PSA: Proceedings of the biennial meeting of the philosophy of science association, Vol. 2: Symposia and invited papers*(pp. 238–252).Google Scholar - Pearl, J. (1988, 1997).
*Probabilistic reasoning in intelligent systems*. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar - Pearl, J. (2000, 2009).
*Causality*. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar - Psillos, S. (2009). Regularity theories. In H. Beebee et al. (Eds.),
*The Oxford handbook of causation*(pp. 131–157). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar - Reichenbach, H. (1956).
*The direction of time*. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar - Savitt, S. F. (1996). The direction of time.
*British Journal for the Philosophy of Science*,*47*, 347–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Sneed, J. D. (1971).
*The logical structure of mathematical physics*. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Spirtes, P., Glymour, C., & Scheines, R. (1993, 2000).
*Causation, prediction, and search*. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar - Steel, D. (2006). Homogeneity, selection, and the faithfulness condition.
*Minds and Machines*,*16*, 303–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Suppes, P. (1970).
*A probabilistic theory of causality*. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar - Tomasello, M. (1999).
*The cultural origins of human cognition*. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar - Uhler, C., Raskutti, G., Bühlmann, P., & Yu, B. (2013). Geometry of the faithfulness assumption in causal inference.
*Annals of Statistics*,*41*, 436–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Verma, T. S. (1986). Causal networks: Semantics and expressiveness. Technical Report R-65. Cognitive Systems Laboratory, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
- Woodward, J. (2003).
*Making things happen*. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar - Wright, S. (1921). Correlation and causation.
*Journal of Agricultural Research*,*20*, 557–585.Google Scholar - Zhang, J., & Spirtes, P. (2003). Strong faithfulness and uniform consistency in causal inference. In
*Proceedings of the 19th conference on uncertainty in artificial intelligence*(pp. 632–639). San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar - Zhang, J., & Spirtes, P. (2008). Detection of unfaithfulness and robust causal inference.
*Minds and Machines*,*18*, 239–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Zhang, J., & Spirtes, P. (2011). Intervention, determinism, and the causal minimality condition.
*Synthese*,*182*, 335–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar