Welcome to the website of the ILLC Master of Logic coordinated project, Hypothetical Reasoning: Its development and impact, happenning from 6 January to 3 February, 2020, and coordinated by Dean McHugh as part of the University of Amsterdam's Causal Inference Lab.
Course information is available on datanose at https://datanose.nl/#course.
Students will be assessed by class participation, a talk given in the third week, and a two-page conference abstract due on 18:00 Friday January 31, 2020.
Many issues we face involve not only what actually happened, but spill over into hypothetical scenarios, asking what would have happened had certain things been different. This kind of reasoning, called hypothetical reasoning, is essential in many areas of life:
We will investigate the development and moral implications of hypothetical reasoning. The course will consist of four lecutres, each on a different topic, and individual supervision for students to develop their own project.
Attributions of moral responsibility involve an essential hypothetical component, considering what would be different had the agent acted differently. Perhaps, then, by understanding the logic of hypothetical reasoning, we can better understand what it means to be morally responsible.
This involves tackling the following questions, among others.
To examine the last question more concretely, have a look at the following argument, taken from the website of the ABP (the Dutch pension fund for employees in education and the government), which currently invests employee pension contributions in the fossil fuel industry:
In this part we examine issues arising from the moral implications of causal reasoning. We ask two questions in particular. Firstly, is causation as an all-or-nothing notion (like innocence versus guilt), or is better modelled as gradable (like punishment)? Secondly, can causal judgements ever be divorced from moral considerations? If not, to what extent can courts be expected to decide matters of causation in an impartial way? And if not, to what extent can legislatures legitimately write laws invoking causal concepts, expecting courts to interpret them?
In this part we put analyses of dependence to the test with a particular case study: discrimination law. There is an intuitive parallel between dependence and discrimination: to be discriminated against on the basis of a given protected trait is to be treated unfavourably because of that trait; in other words, for one's maltreatment to depend on how one has that trait. But what precise test should one apply to determine when an action was carried out “because”/“in virtue”/“on account” of a given trait? Does proof of discrimination require the existence of an actual comparator (one differing in the protected trait but the same in all other relevant respects)? What facts from the actual world can one hold fixed when imagining the person differing in the protected respect?
For instance, suppose an employer fires any employee, regardless of their sex, who requires more time off than their contract provides. Does that employer discriminate because of sex when they fire an employee who requires extra time off because of complications from pregnancy? When imagining that person being a different sex, one cannot fix the fact that they are pregnant, but should one fix the fact that they require extra time off?