1. Instructor Information
2. Schedule & Readings
3. Term Paper
4. Course Discussion Group
Office: Building 90, Room 92H
Office Phone: 725-0110
Office Hours: 3-4 W, 3-5 WR, and by appointment
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (or email@example.com, which forwards to my wisc.edu account)
NOTE: Those who are taking the seminar for credit are expected to study the required readings, which are sometimes short but almost always difficult. The optional readings are listed for those students who want to pursue the topic further. I do not expect students to look at the optional readings (for the purposes of class discussions). The following schedule is tentative. It is subject to change depending on the pace of discussion and the interests of the seminar participants. The schedule will be updated regularly as we go along (I'll try to keep it 2 weeks ahead of where we are now, at all times). Refresh this page to make sure you have the latest version.
NOTE: All required (and almost all recommended) readings are either posted on this website in PDF format, or posted on another website in either HTML or PDF format. You will not need to purchase any materials for the course [some of the papers have been scanned-in, and may not be easily readable on screen --- but, they should all be quite readable once printed out]. You can get complete references for all papers and books used in the course (and many others!) from the following pair of partial bibliographies on causation:
Week #1: Brief historical introduction to causation and the problems of causation. Why is causation important and why it is problematic? A few words about the historical background. We begin with Hume's theory, not only because it is the most influential view of deterministic causation, but also because its difficulties all have echoes in difficulties faced by probabilistic theories of causation. In particular, we will point out problems concerning the asymmetry of the causal relation, the distinction between laws and accidental generalizations, and the possibility that effects of a common cause can satisfy all of Hume's conditions on causation. We shall also say something about the relations among causation, induction, laws, and counterfactuals.
- Required Readings for Week 1:
- David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sections 1 -- 7.
- Dan Hausman, Causal Asymmetries, chapter 3.
- Gurol Irzik, "Three Dogmas of Humean Causation" (interesting overview which touches on all aspects of course -- don't worry if it presupposes too much -- we will return to many of the themes later in the course)
- Optional Readings for Week 1:
- David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part III.
- Thomas Beauchamp and Alexander Rosenberg, Hume and the Problem of Causation, chapter 1 (perhaps the best single introduction to Hume's theory of causation).
- Paul Horwich, Asymmetries in Time, chapter 8.
- John Mackie, The Cement of the Universe, chapter 3.
- Jonathan Schaffer, "Causation by Disconnection" (looks ahead to counterfactual and probabilistic stuff -- argues for necessity of "humean" view of causation)
Week #2: Counterfactual theories of (token) causation. This week focuses David Lewis' influential counterfactual theory (and various revisions of it). Of particular interest to us will be the ways that counterfactual theories theory copes (or fails to cope) with the difficulties that Hume's theory faced (as outlined by Hausman).
- Required Readings for Week 2:
- Optional Readings for Week 2:
- David Lewis, "Postscripts to Causation"
- David Lewis, "Counterfactual Dependence and Time's Arrow"
- David Lewis, "Counterfactuals and Comparative Possibility"
- Robert Stalnaker, "A Theory of Conditionals"
- G. Lee. Bowie, "The Similarity Approach to Counterfactuals: Some Problems"
- Paul Horwich, Asymmetries in Time, chapter 10
- Ned Hall, "Two Concepts of Causation"
- Dan Hausman, Causal Asymmetries, chapter 6 and 6*
- Paul Horwich, Asymmetries in Time, chapter 10
- Jonathan Schaffer, "Trumping Preemption"
- Phil Dowe, "Is Causation Influence?"
- Igal Kvart, "Lewis' 'Causation as Influence'"
- Laurie Paul, "Aspect Causation"
- Peter Menzies, "Difference-Making in Context"
Week #3: Manipulability Theories of Causation. This week we will read about (philosophical) theories which invoke "manipulability" or "agency" to resolve some of the mysteries of causation (especially, asymmetry).
- Required Readings for Week 3:
- Optional Reading for Week 3:
Weeks 4 - 6: Traditional probabilistic theories of causation. We will begin by discussing (a) some preliminary technical background to probability and its objective interpretation, and (b) the distinction between type and token probabilistic causation. Then, we will discuss (c) type-level PC followed by (d) token-level PC. The token-level PC stuff will overlap with the discussion of counterfactual theories of causation.
- Required Readings for Week 4:
- Optional Readings for Week 4:
- Required Readings for Week 5:
- Optional Readings for Week 5:
- Required Readings for Week 6:
- Optional Readings for Week 6:
- I.J. Good, "A Causal Calculus I & II"
- Patrick Suppes, A Probabilistic Theory of Causality, chapters 1 and 2
- I.J. Good, "Causal Tendency, Necessitivity and Sufficientivity: an Updated Review"
- Nancy Cartwright, "Causal Laws and Effective Strategies"
- Ellery Eells, Probabilistic Causality, Introduction and chapter 2 through chapter 5
- David Papineau, "Can We Reduce Causal Direction to Probabilities?"
- Frank Arntzenius, "The Common Cause Principle"
Weeks #7 - 10: Bayesian Networks and Causal Modeling with Structural Equations
- Required Readings for Week 7:
- Optional Readings for Week 7:
- Sewall Wright, "The Method of Path Coefficients"
- Nanny Wermuth and Steffen Lauritzen, "On Substantive Research Hypotheses, Conditional Independence Graphs and Graphical Chain Models"
- Wolfgang Spohn, "On the Properties of Conditional Independence"
- Philip Dawid, "Conditional Independence for Statistical Operations"
- Jon Williamson, "Foundations for Bayesian Networks"
- Required Readings for Week 8:
- Optional Readings for Week 8:
- Required Readings for Week 9:
- Optional Readings for Week 9:
- Required Readings for Week 10:
- Optional Readings for Week 10:
The main work for the seminar will consist of an essay of roughly
5,000 words, which will be due March 22. Students should
select topics no later than February 20 and should discuss
their topics with me. I will read and write comments on all seminar
papers that are submitted on time. Late papers may receive less
In addition to the seminar papers, students are required to post a
question on the seminar's usenet
discussion group: su.class.phil269
every week by noon on Monday. Student(s) will also be responsible for
introducing and opening the discussion once during the quarter. Each
Thursday, the discussion leader(s) will be responsible for
summarizing and organizing the questions posted on the web discussion
page that week, highlighting the questions the discussion leader
thinks the seminar should focus on, and, where appropriate, sketching
some answers to the posted questions. The presentations of the
discussion leaders should take about 15 minutes. One-eighth of the
quarter grade will depend on the web postings and on performance as
discussion leaders, and another eighth of the quarter grade will
depend on the quality of contributions to seminar discussions.