The Role of Counterfactual Dependence in Causal Judgements

Peter Menzies

in Understanding Counterfactuals, Understanding Causation

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199590698
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731242 | DOI:

Series: Consciousness & Self-Consciousness Series

The Role of Counterfactual Dependence in Causal Judgements

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I argue that philosophers and psychologists have been premature in dismissing the possibility that the causal concept is analytically tied to the concept of counterfactual dependence. I argue that if we understand the notion of counterfactual dependence in a suitably enriched way, we can see that some examples that purport to show the difference between causation and counterfactual dependence do not in fact show this. In spelling out this enriched conception of counterfactual dependence, I draw on work in cognitive psychology on counterfactual availability, or the conditions under which people spontaneously generate counterfactuals or evaluate particular counterfactuals as true. I shall rely, in particular, on studies by Kahneman & Tversky, Kahneman & Miller, and Hart & Honoré that attend to the important role that the concepts of norms, normal conditions, and interventions play in our counterfactual reasoning. I argue that concept of counterfactual dependence, enriched in the way I suggest, is a more apt tool for analysing the concept of causation.

Keywords: counterfactuals; token causation; counterfactual dependence; counterfactual availability; causes versus enabling conditions; negative causation; norms and normal conditions; interventions

Chapter.  11648 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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