Path-Specific Effects

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):53-76 (2019)
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Abstract

A cause may influence its effect via multiple paths. Paradigmatically (Hesslow [1974]), taking birth control pills both decreases one’s risk of thrombosis by preventing pregnancy and increases it by producing a blood chemical. Building on Pearl ([2001]), I explicate the notion of a path-specific effect. Roughly, a path-specific effect of C on E via path P is the degree to which a change in C would change E were they to be transmitted only via P. Facts about such effects may be gleaned from the structural equations commonly used to represent the causal relationships among variables. I contrast my analysis of the Hesslow case with those given by theorists of probabilistic causality, who mistakenly link it to issues of causal heterogeneity, token-causation and indeterminism. The reason probabilistic theories misdiagnose this case is that they pay inadequate attention to the structural relationships among variables.

Author's Profile

Naftali Weinberger
Tilburg Center For Logic, Ethics, And Philosophy Of Science (TiLPS - Tilburg University)

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