Causation, Probability, and the Continuity Bind

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (3):881-909 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Analyses of singular causation often make use of the idea that a cause increases the probability of its effect. Of particular salience in such accounts are the values of the probability function of the effect, conditional on the presence and absence of the putative cause, analysed around the times of the events in question: causes are characterized by the effect’s probability function being greater when conditionalized upon them. Put this way, it becomes clearer that the ‘behaviour’ of probability functions in small intervals about the times in question ought to be of concern. In this article, I make an extended case that causal theorists employing the ‘probability raising’ idea should pay attention to the continuity question. Specifically, if the probability functions are ‘jumping about’ in ways typical of discontinuous functions, then the stability of the relevant probability increase is called into question. The rub, however, is that sweeping requirements for either continuity or discontinuity are problematic and, as I argue, this constitutes a ‘continuity bind’. Hence more subtle considerations and constraints are needed, two of which I consider: utilizing discontinuous first derivatives of continuous probability functions, and abandoning point probability for imprecise probability. _1_ Introduction _2_ Probability Trajectories and Continuity _2.1_ Probability trajectories _2.2_ Causation as discontinuous jumps _2.3_ Against systematic discontinuity _3_ Broader Discontinuity Concerns _4_ The Continuity Bind _4.1_ Retaining continuity with discontinuous first derivatives _4.2_ Imprecise probability trajectories _5_ Concluding Remarks Appendix



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,038

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Imprecise Probability and Chance.Anthony F. Peressini - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (3):561-586.
A Probabilistic Analysis of Causation.Luke Glynn - 2011 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (2):343-392.
Overlappings: Probability-raising without causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2000 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 78 (1):40 – 46.
Causation and the Probabilities of Processes.Jonathan Moshe Schaffer - 1999 - Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
Foundations of Probability.Rachael Briggs - 2015 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 44 (6):625-640.
Carnap and Reichenbach on Probability with Neurath the Winner.Keith Lehrer - 1993 - Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 1:143-155.
Roger white’s argument against imprecise credences.Dylan Dodd - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):69-77.
Non-Archimedean Probability.Vieri Benci, Leon Horsten & Sylvia Wenmackers - 2013 - Milan Journal of Mathematics 81 (1):121-151.
A Theistic Conception of Probability.Richard Otte - 1987 - Faith and Philosophy 4 (4):427-447.
Conditional Probability in the Light of Qualitative Belief Change.David C. Makinson - 2011 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 40 (2):121 - 153.


Added to PP

126 (#135,705)

6 months
9 (#158,930)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Anthony F. Peressini
Marquette University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Causality.Judea Pearl - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Two concepts of causation.Ned Hall - 2004 - In John Collins, Ned Hall & Laurie Paul (eds.), Causation and Counterfactuals. MIT Press. pp. 225-276.
Belief and the Will.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (5):235-256.

View all 26 references / Add more references