The Contextual Character of Causal Evidence

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Topoi, ISSN: 0167-7411, Vol: 33, Issue: 2, Page: 397-406

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Suárez, Mauricio
Springer Nature
Arts and Humanities
article description
I argue for the thesis that causal evidence is context-dependent. The same causal claim may be warranted by the same piece of evidence in one context but not another. I show this in particular for the type of causal evidence characteristic of the manipulability theory defended by Woodward (Making things happen: a theory of causal explanation. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003). My thesis, however, generalises to other theories—and at the end of the paper I outline the generalization to counterfactual theories. The paradigmatic form of causal evidence in the manipulability theory is provided by tests of the functional invariance of the relation between putative cause and effect under interventions (on the putative cause). I show that such evidence exhibits at least two kinds of context-relativity: personal, or epistemic; and situational, or objective.