Causality, Invariance, and Policy

Nancy Cartwright

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780195189254
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892105 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Causality, Invariance, and Policy

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  • Philosophy of Science
  • Metaphysics


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This article explains the puzzling methodology of an important econometric study of health and status. It notes the widespread use of invariance in both economic and philosophical studies of causality to guarantee that causal knowledge can be used to predict the effects of manipulations. It argues that the kind of invariance seen widely in economic methodology succeeds at this job whereas a standard kind of invariance now popular in philosophy cannot. It questions the special role of causal knowledge with respect to predictions about the effects of manipulations once the importance of adding on invariance is recognized. It also draws the despairing conclusion that both causation and invariance are poor tools for predicting the outcomes of policy and technology and to pose the challenge.

Keywords: health; status; invariance; philosophical studies; causation; policy

Article.  6019 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Metaphysics

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