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Why Your Causal Intuitions are Corrupt: Intermediate and Enabling Variables

Published version
Peer-reviewed

Repository DOI


Change log

Authors

Clarke, Christopher  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6225-0115

Abstract

When evaluating theories of causation, intuitions should not play a decisive role, not even intuitions in flawlessly-designed thought experiments. Indeed, no coherent theory of causation can respect the typical person’s intuitions in redundancy (pre-emption) thought experiments, without disrespecting their intuitions in threat-and-saviour (switching/short-circuit) thought experiments. I provide a deductively sound argument for these claims. Amazingly, this argument assumes absolutely nothing about the nature of causation. I also provide a second argument, whose conclusion is even stronger: the typical person’s causal intuitions are thoroughly unreliable. This argument proceeds by raising the neglected question: in what respects is information about intermediate and enabling variables relevant to reliable causal judgment?

Description

Acknowledgements: Thank you to audiences at EIPE Rotterdam and TILPS Tilburg for discussions of these ideas. And thank you Martin van Hees, Conrad Heilmann, and Fred Muller for your comments on an ancestral version of this manuscript.

Keywords

Journal Title

Erkenntnis

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

0165-0106
1572-8420

Volume Title

89

Publisher

Springer Netherlands
Sponsorship
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme (715530)