The Practical Value of Spurious Correlations: Selective versus Manipulative Policy

Analysis 68 (4):298 - 303 (2008)
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Abstract

In the past 25 years, many philosophers have endorsed the view that the practical value of causal knowledge lies in the fact that manipulation of causes is a good way to bring about a desired change in the effect. This view is intuitively very plausible. For instance, we can predict a storm on the basis of a barometer reading, but we cannot avoid the storm by manipulating the state of the barometer (barometer status and storm are effects of a common cause, viz. atmospheric conditions). In Section 1 we present textual evidence which shows that this view is very popular. In Section 2 we show that this standard view is too restrictive: the practical value of causal knowledge is wider. In Section 3 we introduce the distinction between ‘manipulative policy’ and ‘selective policy’ as a theoretical framework to account for this wider practical value.

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Author Profiles

Bert Leuridan
University of Antwerp
Maarten Van Dyck
Ghent University

Citations of this work

How Probabilistic Causation Can Account for the Use of Mechanistic Evidence.Erik Weber - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (3):277-295.

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