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James Woodward, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

Thu January 26th 2017, 4:30pm
Bldg 200 Room 307

Causation with a Human Face

Abstract: This talk will explore some of the interrelations between normative/ philosophical theorizing about causation and more descriptive empirical research into causal reasoning of the sort conducted by psychologists. (I include in the former category work going on in statistics and computer science as well as philosophy departments.) I will suggest that each of these enterprises can illuminate the other—among other things, philosophical theories can suggest possible experiments and aid in the analysis of experimental results and experimental results can suggest possibilities for normative theorizing that may not otherwise be salient. I will illustrate these general claims with some specific examples involving the role of considerations like invariance and proportionality in causal thinking. Time permitting, I will also attempt to extract some general morals regarding the kinds of interactions between empirical work and philosophical theorizing that are most likely to be fruitful.