Single Case Causes: What Is Evidence and Why

  • Nancy Cartwright
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 379)


How do we establish singular causal claims? It seems we do this all the time, from courtrooms to cloud chambers. Nevertheless, there is a strong lobby in the evidence-based medicine and policy movements that argues that we cannot make reliable causal judgments about single cases in these areas. So we cannot tell whether a policy or treatment ‘worked’ for any specific individual. This paper argues the contrary. It provides a catalogue of evidence types that can support singular causal claims, and it develops a theoretical framework that shows that these types are evidence for causation in the single case.


Structural Equation Causal Claim INUS Condition Causal Principle Policy Movement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Alex Marcellesi for research assistance and thank the participants in my winter 2013 graduate seminar on ‘Evidence and Singular Causes’ at UC San Diego as well as an anonymous referee for help with the ideas and details of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California at San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS)Durham UniversityDurhamUK

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