Journal Article

Causes and Explanations: A Structural-Model Approach. Part II: Explanations

Joseph Y. Halpern and Judea Pearl

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 56, issue 4, pages 889-911
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2005 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axi148
Causes and Explanations: A Structural-Model Approach. Part II: Explanations

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We propose new definitions of (causal) explanation, using structural equations to model counterfactuals. The definition is based on the notion of actual cause, as defined and motivated in a companion article. Essentially, an explanation is a fact that is not known for certain but, if found to be true, would constitute an actual cause of the fact to be explained, regardless of the agent's initial uncertainty. We show that the definition handles well a number of problematic examples from the literature.

Introduction

Causal models and the definition of actual causality: a review

2.1 Causal models

2.2 Syntax and semantics

2.3 The definition of cause

Explanation: the basic definition

Partial explanations and explanatory power

The general definition

Discussion

Appendix: the formal definition of causality

Journal Article.  12362 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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