History & Philosophy of Science Talk by James Woodward

This is an Archive of a Past Event

James Woodward, History of Science, University of Pittsburgh

"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 philospohy 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.