Causation, Explanation, Conditionals
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Program

Announcement

The Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience (BCCN) invites the participants of CEC17 to join their retreat at the Evangelische Akademie. They provide us with the options to attend one or both of the following events on June 20.

The participants of CEC17 are most welcome to join those events accompanied by a dinner at the Ev. Akademie at 18:00. If you want to join for Prof. Wibral’s talk, please arrive around 16:30. The registration at the reception takes a few minutes and out of respect for Prof. Wibral and BCCN you should not enter the lecture hall late.

Day 1 (21 June 2017)

TimeEvent
08:45 - 09:00 Opening Statement
Chair: Mario Günther
09:00 - 10:30 Joseph Halpern: Actual Causality: A Survey
Chair: Mario Günther
10:30 - 11:00 Coffee Break
11:00 - 12:15 William Penny: Dynamic Causal Modeling
Chair: Andreas Herz
12:15 - 13:00 Benjamin Eva & Reuben Stern: Causal Explanatory Power
Chair: Karolina Krzyżanowska
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch Break
14:00 - 15:15 Stefan Glasauer: On Causality. A Neuroscience Perspective
Chair: William Penny
15:15 - 15:45 Coffee Break
15:45 - 16:30 Thomas Blanchard: Explanatory Levels and the Goldilocks Problem: Interventionism Gets Things Just Right
Chair: Franz Huber
16:30 - 17:15 Atoosa Kasirzadeh: Non-Causal and Mathematics-Based Explanations
Chair: Franz Huber
18:00 Dinner (Evangelische Akademie)

Day 2 (22 June 2017)

TimeEvent
09:00 - 10:15 Wolfgang Spohn: The Transitivity of Causation
Chair: Katrin Schulz
10:15 - 10:45 Coffee Break
10:45 - 12:00 Franz Huber: The Modality Underlying Causality
Chair: Reuben Stern
12:00 - 12:45 Neil McDonnell: Causation’s Two Masters
Chair: Reuben Stern
12:45 - 14:00 Lunch Break
14:00 - 15:15 Holger Andreas: Causation as Production
Chair: Stephan Hartmann
15:15 - 16:00 Toby Friend: A Nomological Analysis of Causation
Chair: Stephan Hartmann
16:00 - 16:30 Coffee Break
16:30 - 17:45 Gerhard Schurz: The Theory of Causal Bayes Nets and Its Empirical Content
Chair: Wolfgang Spohn
18:30 Conference Dinner (Taverna Santorini in Tutzing)

Day 3 (23 June 2017)

TimeEvent
09:00 - 10:15 Hans Rott: If Oswald had not killed Kennedy
Chair: Atoosa Kasirzadeh
10:15 - 10:45 Coffee Break
10:45 - 12:00 Karolina Krzyżanowska: Odd Conditionals and the Limits of Pragmatic Explanations
Chair: Holger Andreas
12:00 - 12:45 Noah van Dongen, M. Sikorski & J. Sprenger: Causal Strength, Tendency Causal Claims, and Indicative Conditionals
Chair: Holger Andreas
12:45 - 14:00 Lunch Break
14:00 - 15:15 Katrin Schulz: An Interventionist Approach to Conditionals: Some Linguistic Applications
Chair: Hans Rott
15:15 - 15:45 Coffee Break
15:45 - 17:00 Stephan Hartmann: Bayesian Argumentation
Chair: Mario Günther
17:00 - 17:15 Final Words
Chair: Mario Günther

Abstracts

Holger Andreas: Causation as Production

We attempt to define the concept of causation understood as production. At the core of our definition is a strengthened variant of the Ramsey Test semantics of conditionals: A >> C iff, after suspending judgement about A and C, C is believed in the course of hypothetically assuming A. By means of such a test, we can (epistemically) verify, or falsify, that an event brings about a certain other event, and thus qualifies as a cause of the latter event.top

Thomas Blanchard: Explanatory Levels and the Goldilocks Problem: Interventionism Gets Things Just Right

One of the tasks of a theory of causal explanation is to account for a puzzling feature of our explanatory practices: the fact that we prefer explanations that are relatively abstract (or 'high-level’) but only moderately so. I argue that the interventionist account of causal explanation provides a natural and elegant explanation of this fact. On the interventionist view, moderately high-level explanations emerge as optimal because they are both specific enough about the factors that made a difference to the explanandum, and abstract enough to describe the dependence of the outcome on these factors in a suitably exhaustive way.top

Noah van Dongen, M. Sikorski & J. Sprenger: Causal Strength, Tendency Causal Claims, and Indicative Conditionals

The relation between conditionals and causal claims received attention in philosophy, though this relation has never been empirically tested. We present experimental results of people's evaluation of A) the likelihood of hypothetical scenarios conditioned on preceding events and B) the truth of of these scenarios phrased as a causal claim (e.g., "Making contraception mandatory until the age of 21 will cause the birthrate to decline in the next 10 years.") and conditional claims (e.g., "If contraception is made mandatory until the age of 21, then the birthrate will decline in the next 10 years."). Our results indicate that probabilities and the truth-values of tendency causal claims are relevant predictors for the truth-values of corresponding indicative conditionals.top

Benjamin Eva & Reuben Stern: Causal Explanatory Power

Schupbach and Sprenger (2011) introduced a novel probabilistic approach to measuring the explanatory power that a given explanans exerts over a corresponding explanandum. Since it is universally agreed that at least some explanations are causal in character, it seems desirable that any such measure should work well for quantifying the power of causal explanations. In this paper, we show that the measure obtained by Schupbach and Sprenger gives incorrect results for cases where the causal structure plays an important role, and go on to embed their measure into a larger procedure that is better able to model the power of causal explanations.top

Toby Friend: A Nomological Analysis of Causation

This paper presents a novel nomological analysis of singular causal relations. I begin in §1 by arguing that laws have the logical form of a conditional with a specific distribution of content. In §2 I discuss why typical approaches to nomological analysis of causation have failed as a consequence of not recognising these logical points. In §3 I draw attention to certain causal asymmetries among laws' variables and suggest a probabilistic analysis of them drawing on the notion of a 'collider' (Spirtes et al 2000). In §4 I set out the analysis of singular causal relations and in §5 show why it may improve on other existing causal analyses providing examples from electronics.top

Stefan Glasauer: On Causality. A Neuroscience Perspective

Is causality a topic in neuroscience? If it is, what does causality mean for a neuroscientist? On one hand, neuroscientists seek causal evidence by doing experimental investigations. I argue that the majority of neuroscientific claims of causal evidence builds on the interventionist premise that experimental manipulation of a cause should change the assumed effect. Other approaches rely on observational methods of causal inference, such as Granger causality. On the other hand, neuroscientists are also interested in how humans perceive or attribute causality. I will briefly introduce the historical paradigm and review some of the recent approaches, which conceptually build on normative Bayesian theories. Taken together it seems that it is not necessary to derive true causality, as long as the actions based on the assumed causal relations are appropriate.
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Joseph Halpern: Actual Causality: A Survey

What does it mean that an event C ''actually caused'' event E?
The problem of defining actual causation goes beyond mere philosophical speculation. For example, in many legal arguments, it is precisely what needs to be established in order to determine responsibility. (What exactly was the actual cause of the car accident or the medical problem?) The philosophy literature has been struggling with the problem of defining causality since the days of Hume, in the 1700s. Many of the definitions have been couched in terms of counterfactuals. (C is a cause of E if, had C not happened, then E would not have happened.) In 2001, Judea Pearl and I introduced a new definition of actual cause, using Pearl's notion of structural equations to model counterfactuals. The definition has been revised twice since then, extended to deal with notions like "responsibility" and "blame", and applied in databases and program verification.top

Stephan Hartmann: Bayesian Argumentation

We often make arguments based on uncertain premises. In such cases, the conclusion of the argument does not follow with certainty, even if the underlying argument pattern is deductively valid. This raises the questions "what is so special about deductively valid arguments?", and "what advantage do we gain by using them?". We will provide a novel answer to these questions. In doing so, we will apply the distance-based approach to probabilistic updating to the study of argumentation in uncertain contexts. Unlike the many updating rules that have been considered in the philosophical literature, this approach takes seriously the idea of updating on non-propositional evidence. We show that the distance-based approach is the only probabilistic updating method that is able to provide a philosophically satisfactory account of arguments with uncertain premises. The talk is based on joint work with Ben Eva.top

Franz Huber: The Modality Underlying Causality

I will discuss the relationship between extended causal models, which represent two modalities (causal counterfactuals and normality), and counterfactual models, which represent one modality (counterfactuals). It is shown that, under a certain condition, extended causal models that are acyclic can be embedded into counterfactual models. The relevant condition is reminiscent of Lewis (1979) "system of weights or priorities" that governs the similarity relation of causal counterfactuals. In concluding I will sketch modal idealism, a view according to which the causal relationship is a mind-dependent construct.top

Atoosa Kasirzadeh: Non-Causal and Mathematics-Based Explanations

I first introduce two accounts of non-causal explanations: (i) Lange (2013)'s account of distinctively mathematical explanations in the physical sciences; (ii) Steiner (1978)'s account of mathematical explanations in (pure) mathematics. I elucidate the features which make these explanations non-causal. I compare the sources of explanatory power of these accounts and I discuss whether these sources differ from each other. Moreover, I examine whether the features which make these explanations non-causal parallel the features essential to the counterfactual causation-based account of explanation suggested by Woodward (2003).top

Karolina Krzyżanowska: Odd Conditionals and the Limits of Pragmatic Explanations

It is a common intuition that the antecedent of an indicative conditional should be relevant for its consequent, that they should be somehow connected. However, only very few semantic theories of conditionals do justice to this intuition, while the majority tends to dismiss it as a pragmatic rather than a semantic phenomenon. Nevertheless, no one has offered a satisfactory pragmatic explanation of why conditionals such as ''If kangaroos have no gills, then they cannot fly'' strike us as odd. In my talk, I will discuss some seemingly plausible pragmatic explanations of the oddity of missing-link conditionals and, drawing from the empirical studies on the semantics and pragmatics of indicative conditionals, I will show how they fail.top

Neil McDonnell: Causation’s Two Masters

The philosophy of causation serves two masters: on the one hand theories of causation had better fit with our scientific understanding of the world as we find it, on the other it had better not disagree too much with common sense. It is my contention in this paper that these two requirements pull in different directions and that the philosophy of causation, since at least 1986, has conflated two alternative target phenomena: making a contribution and making a particular difference. I will argue that this distinction can shed light on a range of trenchant issues for theories of causation.top

Roland Poellinger: Modeling Cause and Effect — Philosophical and Computational Aspects

In 1913, Bertrand Russell famously refused to pursue any analysis of the concept of causation because he believed that the "law of causality [...] is a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm" (ON THE NOTION OF CAUSE). With the arrival of formal methods in Philosophy, authors like David Lewis or Judea Pearl picked up loose ends and started re-constructing the concept close to intuition. Nevertheless, there still seems to be enough room for dispute. In his seminal book CAUSALITY (2009), Pearl expresses his astonishment about the current state of affairs: "We are witnessing one of the most bizarre circles in the history of science: Causality in search of a language and, simultaneously, the language of causality in search of its meaning." The introductory tutorial “Modeling Cause and Effect” will first give an outline of the conceptual history and then focus on the relationship between probability, correlation, and causation, on graphical causal modeling and on the interplay between observation and intervention.top

Hans Rott: If Oswald had not killed Kennedy

Wolfgang Spohn's theory of ranking functions is an elegant and powerful theory of the structure and dynamics of doxastic states. In two recent papers, Spohn has applied it to the analysis of conditionals, claiming to have presented a unified account of indicative and subjunctive (counterfactual) conditionals. I argue that his analysis fails to account for counterfactuals that refer to indirect causes. The strategy of taking the transitive closure that Spohn employs in the theory of causation is not available for counterfactuals. I have a close look at Spohn's treatment of the famous Oswald-Kennedy case in order to illustrate my points. I sketch an alternative view that seems to avoid the problems.top

Katrin Schulz: An Interventionist Approach to Conditionals: Some Linguistic Applications

In this talk I will discuss possible linguistics benefits of an interventionists semantics for conditionals (Pearl 2000, 2013). I want to focus on two particular phenomena: Fake Tense and the Proviso Problem. Fake Tense is the name Iatridou (2000) introduced for the observation that in many languages past tense morphology in subjunctive conditionals appears to not be interpreted temporally. The Proviso Problem concerns the projection behaviour of presuppositions; in our case presuppositions in conditional sentences. We will see that the interventionist perspective opens up new perspectives for these phenomena. But it also leads to new questions.

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Gerhard Schurz: The Theory of Causal Bayes Nets and Its Empirical Content

In the first part I give an axiomatic reconstruction of the theory of causal Bayes nets (TCBN) in which I consider the relation of "direct causation" as theoretical concept and the relation of probabilistic dependency as empirical (non-theoretical) concept.
Based on this framework, the empirical content of the core and of several extensions of TCBN are investigated in the second part of my talk.top

Wolfgang Spohn: The Transitivity of Causation

The transitivity of the relation of one fact being a cause of another has been under dispute within probabilistic causation and is now under dispute even within deterministic causation. One purpose of my talk is to lay out the complex dialectics of this issue. Another purpose is to argue that the balance of reasons clearly speaks in favor of sticking to the transitivity of causation.