with a Human Face"
The recent literature on causation presents us with a striking puzzle.
On the one hand, (1) there has been an explosion of seemingly fruitful
work in philosophy, statistics, computer science, and psychology on
causal inference, causal learning, causal judgment and related
topics. This reflects the apparent usefulness of causal thinking
in many of the special sciences and in common sense. On the other hand,
(2) many philosophers of physics, from Russell onwards, have claimed
that causal notions are absent from or at least play no foundational
role in fundamental physics, and that at least some aspects of ordinary
causal thinking (e.g. the asymmetry of the cause-effect relation) lack
any sort of grounding in fundamental physical laws. If we also think
that (3) if causal notions are appropriate and legitimate in common
sense and the special sciences, these notions must play a similar role
in fundamental physics, then (1), (2), and (3) appear to be (at the
very least) in considerable tension with one another.
My strategy in this talk will be to explore some of the features of the
systems studied by the upper level sciences and the epistemic problems
that they present to us that make the application of certain causal
notions and patterns of reasoning seem particularly natural and
appropriate. I will suggest that these features are sometimes absent
from the systems studied in fundamental physics and that when
this is so, this explains why causal notions and patterns of reasoning
seem less appropriate when applied to such systems. By recognizing what
is problematic in (3), we can see how (1) and (2) may be reconciled.