Feature dependence: A method for reconstructing actual causes in engineering failure investigations

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 96:100-111 (2022)
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Engineering failure investigations seek to reconstruct the actual causes of major engineering failures. The investigators need to establish the existence of certain past events and the actual causal relationships that these events bear to the failures in question. In this paper, I examine one method for reconstructing the actual causes of failure events, which I call "feature dependence". The basic idea of feature dependence is that some features of an event are informative about the features of its causes; therefore, the investigators can use the features of a known failure event to reconstruct details of its causes. I make explicit the structure of feature dependence and the evidential basis of its key premises, and show how feature dependence works in the investigation of the American Airlines Flight 191 accident.

Author's Profile

Yafeng Wang
Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CASIP)


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