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Probabilistic Causal Interaction

Ellery Eells
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 53, No. 1 (Mar., 1986), pp. 52-64
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/187920
Page Count: 13
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Probabilistic Causal Interaction
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Abstract

It is possible for a causal factor to raise the probability of a second factor in some situations while lowering the probability of the second factor in other situations. Must a genuine cause always raise the probability of a genuine effect of it? When it does not always do so, an "interaction" with some third factor may be the reason. I discuss causal interaction from the perspectives of Giere's counterfactual characterization of probabilistic causal connection (1979, 1980) and the "contextual unanimity" model developed by, among others, Cartwright (1979) and Skyrms (1980). I argue that the contextual unanimity theory must exercise care, in a new way that seems to have gone unnoticed, in order to adequately accommodate the phenomenon, and that the counterfactual theory must be substantially revised; although it will still, pending clarification of a second kind of revision, be unable to accommodate a kind of interaction exemplified in cases like those described by Sober (1982).

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