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Causes and Explanations: A Structural-Model Approach. Part II: Explanations

Joseph Y. Halpern and Judea Pearl
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Vol. 56, No. 4 (Dec., 2005), pp. 889-911
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3541871
Page Count: 23
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Causes and Explanations: A Structural-Model Approach. Part II: Explanations
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Abstract

We propose new definitions of (causal) explanation, using structural equations to model counterfactuals. The definition is based on the notion of actual cause, as defined and motivated in a companion article. Essentially, an explanation is a fact that is not known for certain but, if found to be true, would constitute an actual cause of the fact to be explained, regardless of the agent's initial uncertainty. We show that the definition handles well a number of problematic examples from the literature.

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