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Causation
Posted: 03 February 2009 01:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I thought we could do with a thread for this topic. I’ll start with a question from Bryan lifted from the free will thread.

Bryan - 03 February 2009 12:16 AM

Do you consider a probabilistic causation model to be coherent model of causation?  If not, why not?

My point of view is I consider a probabilistic causation model to be incoherent if causation is considered to be an explanation.

I can think of two definitions of explanation, one more than Doug gave me, and these are:

1) The reason why one thing happens rather than another.

2) The reason why a particular thing has to happen.

Probabilistic causes can’t be reasons why or explanations by either of these definitions.

On the other hand we could view causation as our concept. A tool we use to do a job, like try to get the kettle to boil for instance.
Viewed this way probabilistic causation is coherent, as long as flicking the switch on the kettle increases the probability of it boiling in circumstances in which it boils. Flicking the switch could not be the cause if not.

Stephen

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Posted: 03 February 2009 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes, probabilistic causality does give an explanation of type (1), as does any causal explanation. Your explanation of type (2) only makes sense in a completely deterministic universe, in which we know literally all causal antecedents. That is, it is an unreasonable definition of explanation.

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Posted: 03 February 2009 11:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Ya’ll need a popcorn smiley.

This should be a fun exchange.  Thanks for starting this thread, Stephen.

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Posted: 04 February 2009 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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From David Lewis’s paper “Causal Explanation”: “To explain an event is to provide some information about its causal history.” Sounds about right to me.

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Posted: 06 February 2009 11:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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What is probablistic causation?

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Posted: 07 February 2009 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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wandering - 06 February 2009 11:13 PM

What is probablistic causation?

We’ve been talking about it ad nauseam on the free will thread. If you want a good intro, HERE is a good place to start.

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Posted: 07 February 2009 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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wandering - 06 February 2009 11:13 PM

What is probablistic causation?

a probabilistic cause is one which, counter to our intuitions, doesn’t make the effect happen, the effect is just the thing that follows it and we call it the effect because…..............................................????????????? er dunno.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 February 2009 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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StephenLawrence - 03 February 2009 01:05 AM

1) The reason why one thing happens rather than another.

On some interpretations of QM one could disagree. Further various (random) deterministic chaos
models e.g strange attractors; complexity models; dissipative structure and so on all could use probabilistic causation quite unproblematically.

StephenLawrence - 03 February 2009 01:05 AM

2) The reason why a particular thing has to happen.

This is not causation or determinism but fatalism. (Strange attractors etc are exceptions to my objections o (2) here, since this is not what I think you meant here anyway).

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Posted: 08 February 2009 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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StephenLawrence - 07 February 2009 03:37 PM

a probabilistic cause is one which, counter to our intuitions, doesn’t make the effect happen, the effect is just the thing that follows it and we call it the effect because…..............................................????????????? er dunno.

In the case where we say X caused Y, we call X the “cause” and Y the “effect” because had X not happened, Y would have been less likely to happen. (On a probabilistic account of causality).

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Posted: 08 February 2009 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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faithlessgod - 08 February 2009 11:45 AM
StephenLawrence - 03 February 2009 01:05 AM

2) The reason why a particular thing has to happen.

This is not causation or determinism but fatalism. (Strange attractors etc are exceptions to my objections o (2) here, since this is not what I think you meant here anyway).

It is what I believe to be the usual “common sense” view of causation that people have, which is the effect is forced or necessitated or made to happen by the cause.

Call it what you want, causation, determinism or fatalism, just different words for the same thing.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 February 2009 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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StephenLawrence - 08 February 2009 12:32 PM
faithlessgod - 08 February 2009 11:45 AM
StephenLawrence - 03 February 2009 01:05 AM

2) The reason why a particular thing has to happen.

This is not causation or determinism but fatalism. (Strange attractors etc are exceptions to my objections o (2) here, since this is not what I think you meant here anyway).

It is what I believe to be the usual “common sense” view of causation that people have, which is the effect is forced or necessitated or made to happen by the cause.

Call it what you want, causation, determinism or fatalism, just different words for the same thing.

Your response is not necessarily implied by your specific definition which does not capture well the “common-sense” view of causation and is open to fatalistic (mis-)interpretation. A causal explanation provides not the reason why something has to happen but the reason why it does happen. The latter phrase cannot be (mis)read in terms of fatalism.

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Posted: 08 February 2009 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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StephenLawrence - 08 February 2009 12:32 PM

Call it what you want, causation, determinism or fatalism, just different words for the same thing.

Determinism and fatalism are most specifically not the same thing. It is a serious mistake to confuse the two and considering your interest in this topic this is a 101 error, you should know better.

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Posted: 09 February 2009 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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faithlessgod - 08 February 2009 02:08 PM

Your response is not necessarily implied by your specific definition which does not capture well the “common-sense” view of causation and is open to fatalistic (mis-)interpretation. A causal explanation provides not the reason why something has to happen but the reason why it does happen. The latter phrase cannot be (mis)read in terms of fatalism.

It is only the reason why the effect happens if it has to happen, given the cause.

This is because a reason must be a sufficient reason.

Stephen

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Posted: 09 February 2009 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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dougsmith - 08 February 2009 11:57 AM
StephenLawrence - 07 February 2009 03:37 PM

a probabilistic cause is one which, counter to our intuitions, doesn’t make the effect happen, the effect is just the thing that follows it and we call it the effect because…..............................................????????????? er dunno.

In the case where we say X caused Y, we call X the “cause” and Y the “effect” because had X not happened, Y would have been less likely to happen. (On a probabilistic account of causality).

Ok, this works in some ways but causes cease to be reasons why things happen if viewed like this.

Stephen

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Posted: 09 February 2009 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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faithlessgod - 08 February 2009 03:09 PM
StephenLawrence - 08 February 2009 12:32 PM

Call it what you want, causation, determinism or fatalism, just different words for the same thing.

Determinism and fatalism are most specifically not the same thing. It is a serious mistake to confuse the two and considering your interest in this topic this is a 101 error, you should know better.

It depends upon the definition of fatalism and determinism.

Here is a definition of fatalism:

“Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate or inevitable predetermination”

What’s the difference between determinism and inevitable predeterminism, I think they mean the same thing?

Stephen

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Posted: 09 February 2009 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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StephenLawrence - 09 February 2009 10:10 AM
faithlessgod - 08 February 2009 02:08 PM

Your response is not necessarily implied by your specific definition which does not capture well the “common-sense” view of causation and is open to fatalistic (mis-)interpretation. A causal explanation provides not the reason why something has to happen but the reason why it does happen. The latter phrase cannot be (mis)read in terms of fatalism.

It is only the reason why the effect happens if it has to happen, given the cause.

In terms of explanation a reason is a cause. That is a reason is an explanatory or justificatory factor and is a synonym for cause. So restating this:

“It is only the cause why the effect happens if it has to happen, given the cause.”
“It is only the reason why the effect happens if it has to happen, given the reason”
So clearly you are using reason and cause not as synonyms so what is the difference in your usage? And could you justify your odd use of the conditional and tense “if it has to happen”.

StephenLawrence - 09 February 2009 10:10 AM

This is because a reason must be a sufficient reason.

A sufficient condition for a state of affairs, is a condition which, if met, will ensure that the
state of affairs obtain.  Your premise does not support your conclusion with the phrase “if it has to happen”. So granted your premise one could say “it is the reason why the effect happens, (given the reason)” the parenthetical clause being redundant.

So you still have not justified your odd phrasing which seems to confuse causality and predestination/fatalism. And this is not, according to you,
a stipulative definition but rather a descriptive one ( common-sense view) yet I am still waiting for some support for this claim.

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