What’s the Use?
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.
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