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A philosophical interpretation of Judea Pearl's theory of causality

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Stafford, J 2005 , 'A philosophical interpretation of Judea Pearl's theory of causality', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Judea Pearl has provided a book long treatment to the topic of causality from a formal and predominantly non-philosophical perspective. One of the main aims of Pearl's treatment is to increase the clarity of scientists' reasoning about problems involving causal relationships. I offer a philosophical interpretation of Judea Pearl's treatment of causality. I argue Pearl (2000a) articulates an analysis of causality in two distinct parts. I claim that Pearl unifies several of the key concepts of causality relevant to the epidemiological, economic, social and biological sciences on one part and that Pearl describes several general conditions characteristic of objective causal processes on the other. I label the first part Pearl's account of causal modelling and the second part Pearl's account of causal processes respectively. I find that Pearl's account of causal processes is of the greatest philosophical interest despite the fact that Pearl's account of causal modelling is the primary component of the overall treatment. I locate Pearl's account of causal modelling first within the recent philosophical literature on the nature of models and modelling practices before the literature on causation and explanation as has been the standard elsewhere. With some reservations I argue Pearl's views on objective constraints are consistent with a nomic view of causation. To focus my interpretation I discuss several philosophical criticisms of Pearl's account and argue that each one is misplaced when targeteq at the first part of the account and merely analogues to familiar problems of model interpretation and justification when targeted at the second. I conclude that Pearl's account provides good reason to re-sharpen the philosophical focus on what it is to give an analysis of causation.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Stafford, J
Keywords: Pearl, Judea, Causation, Philosophy
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Copyright 2004 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2005. Includes bibliographical references

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