Causation, Production and Intervention

There is a wide array of views on causation and causal relation ranging from: the idea that A causes B whenever there is a law which states that B’s necessarily follow A’s, to the view that causes are insufficient but non-redundant parts of unnecessary but sufficient conditions for their effects. In this tutorial we will focus on an increasingly popular and relatively novel view of causation: interventionism. According to some early interventionists A causes B only if we can produce B by doing A. Others hold that A causes B if an intervention on A would produce a change in B. In this tutorial we will:
• Trace the history of interventionism back to Von Wright, Anscombe,Wittgenstein and perhaps even Aristotle.
• Discuss the metaphysical implications of the interventionist view and compare it to other available accounts of causation.
• Take a look at the formalities involved in interventionism as set up by Judea Pearl and the technical tools interventionists provide for causal modeling and causal discovery.

  Course Requirements

You are expected to attend all seminar sessions and prepare for them carefully. This does not only include reading the text, but also preparing some questions, remarks or critical comments, to be presented at the beginning of each session.

Your final grade will be determined on the basis of a 5000 word paper on a subject related to the themes discussed in the course. The topic of the paper, in the form of a written research problem (one page giving your name and e-mail address, a title, a clearly stated question, an outline and some literature), has to be send in PDF-format to Niels[dot]vanmiltenburg[at]phil[dot]uu[dot]nl on Friday the 6th of april before 8 p.m. The deadline for the final version of the paper is Friday the 20th of april at 6 p.m. The paper has to be turned in both as a printout (in my mailbox, Janskerkhof, 1st floor) and as an email attachment in PDF format.

The paper needs to have (i) a cover sheet indicating the title, your name, student number and e-mail address and the date; (ii) an introduction stating the research problem and the goal of the paper; (iii) a main part; (iv) a conclusion and (v) a list of references consistently formatted in some standard style. In the assessment of the paper, emphasis will be placed on the research problem and goal, on argumentative coherence and fairness, understanding of the relevant issues, originality, form, and clarity of writing. The final grade for the course will be equal to the grade for the final paper.



  Topic Date Time Location
Session 1 Wittgenstein and Anscombe on Causation February 14th 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Janskerkhof 13a, K 0.05
Session 2 Agency Theory and Interventionism February 28th 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Drift 23, 0.12
Session 3 Causal Mechanisms March 13th 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Drift 23, 0.12
Session 4 Causal Necessity March 20th 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Drift 23, 0.12
Session 5 More on Interventions April 3th 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Drift 23, 0.12
Deadline 1 Research problems April 6th 8 p.m. My email box
Session 6 Your research problems April 10th 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Drift 23, 0.12
Deadline 2 Final papers April 20th 6 p.m. My e-mailbox and my snail-mailbox