Faithfulness, Coordination and Causal Coincidences

Erkenntnis 83 (2):113-133 (2018)
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Within the causal modeling literature, debates about the Causal Faithfulness Condition have concerned whether it is probable that the parameters in causal models will have values such that distinct causal paths will cancel. As the parameters in a model are fixed by the probability distribution over its variables, it is initially puzzling what it means to assign probabilities to these parameters. I propose that to assign a probability to a parameter in a model is to treat that parameter as a function of a variable in an augmented model. By combining this proposal with widely adopted principles regarding which variables must be included in a model, I argue that the various proposed counterexamples to CFC involving coordinated parameters are not genuine counterexamples. I then consider the cases in which CFC fails due not to coordination, but by coincidence, and propose explanatory and predictive bases for ruling out such coincidences without presuming that they are improbable. The aim of the proposed defenses is not to show that CFC never fails, but rather to argue that its use in a particular context may be defended using general modeling assumptions rather than by relying on claims about how often it fails.
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