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Common Causes and The Direction of Causation

Weslake, Brad (2006) Common Causes and The Direction of Causation. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Is the common cause principle merely one of a set of useful heuristics for discovering causal relations, or is it rather a piece of heavy duty metaphysics, capable of grounding the direction of causation itself? Since the principle was introduced in Reichenbach’s groundbreaking work The Direction of Time (1956), there have been a series of attempts to pursue the latter program—to take the probabilistic relationships constitutive of the principle of the common cause and use them to ground the direction of causation. These attempts have not all explicitly appealed to the principle as originally formulated; it has also appeared in the guise of independence conditions, counterfactual overdetermination, and, in the causal modelling literature, as the causal markov condition. In this paper, I identify a set of difficulties for grounding the asymmetry of causation on the principle and its descendents. The first difficulty, concerning what I call the vertical placement of causation, consists of a tension between considerations that drive towards the macroscopic scale, and considerations that drive towards the microscopic scale—the worry is that these considerations cannot both be comfortably accommodated. The second difficulty consists of a novel potential counterexample to the principle based on the familiar Einstein Podolsky Rosen (EPR) cases in quantum mechanics.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
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Weslake, Brad
Additional Information: Forthcoming in a Minds and Machines special issue on “Causality, Uncertainty and Ignorance”.
Keywords: Asymmetry of causation, backwards causation, causal markov condition, causality, causation, common cause, direction of causation, Reichenbach, quantum mechanics.
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Depositing User: Brad Weslake
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2006
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:14
Item ID: 2792
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/2792

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