Causal Inference Lab

Talk by Sander Beckers on Actual Causation on 20.5.


On 20.5. Sander Beckers from Utrecht University will give a talk about his work on actual causation. The talk will take place at 1pm in F1.15, Science Park 107. To prepare for this meeting see the articles in the reading list.


Title: A Principled Definition of Actual Causation


Abstract. In this paper we present a new proposal for defining actual causation, i.e., defining when one event caused another. We do so within the popular counterfactual tradition initiated by Lewis, which is characterised by attributing a fundamental role to counterfactual dependence. Unlike the currently prominent definitions, our approach proceeds from the ground up: we start from basic principles, and construct a definition of causation that satisfies them. We define the concepts of counterfactual dependence and production, and put forward principles such that dependence is an unnecessary but sufficient condition for causation, whereas production is an insufficient but necessary condition. The resulting definition of causation is a suitable compromise between dependence and production. Every principle is introduced by means of a paradigmatic example of causation. Further, we explore the (in)transitivity of causation and explain why it has been the source of so much discussion. We make all of this formally precise using structural equations, which we extend with a timing over all events.