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Probabilities of Causation: Three Counterfactual Interpretations and Their Identification

Judea Pearl
Synthese
Vol. 121, No. 1/2, Statistics and Causation (1999), pp. 93-149
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20118223
Page Count: 57
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Probabilities of Causation: Three Counterfactual Interpretations and Their Identification
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Abstract

According to common judicial standard, judgment in favor of plaintiff should be made if and only if it is "more probable than not" that the defendant's action was the cause for the plaintiff's damage (or death). This paper provides formal semantics, based on structural models of counterfactuals, for the probability that event x was a necessary or sufficient cause (or both) of another event y. The paper then explicates conditions under which the probability of necessary (or sufficient) causation can be learned from statistical data, and shows how data from both experimental and nonexperimental studies can be combined to yield information that neither study alone can provide. Finally, we show that necessity and sufficiency are two independent aspects of causation, and that both should be invoked in the construction of causal explanations for specific scenarios.

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