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Making a DifferenceEssays on the Philosophy of Causation$
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Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock, and Huw Price

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746911

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198746911.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 30 July 2021

Actual Causation

Actual Causation

What’s the Use?

(p.116) 7 Actual Causation
Making a Difference

Christopher Hitchcock

Oxford University Press

This chapter connects two themes in the work of Peter Menzies: (1) the agency theory of causation; and (2) the analysis of actual causation in terms of structural equation models together with considerations of normality. According to the latter type of analysis, actual causation involves certain kinds of path-specific effects. What is the practical benefit of knowing about such effects? The chapter argues that such knowledge is not necessary for one-shot decisions, but is crucial for plans that involve multiple steps. Such plans require that we know how our interventions will work in conjunction with future interventions that are feasible, expected, and desirable. This explains both the focus on path-specific effects, and the sensitivity of actual causation to considerations of normality.

Keywords:   actual causation, agency, decision theory, goal-directed reasoning, intervention, Peter Menzies, path-specific effect, structural equation model

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