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Underdeterministic Causation

Wysocki, Tomasz (2023) Underdeterministic Causation. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Metaphysicians and philosophers of science have recently been analyzing two species of causation: deterministic causes, which guarantee their effects (Hitchcock 2001, Halpern 2016, Weslake 2015, Woodward 2003), and probabilistic causes, which raise the probability of their effects
(Fenton-Glynn 2017, Twardy & Korb 2011). Yet, consider: about to jump off the tower, Daedalus realizes he only may escape, but also that if he doesn’t try, he’ll stay imprisoned forever. He jumps and flees, and his jump is a cause of his escape. It’s not a deterministic cause, however, because a successful escape wasn’t guaranteed. It’s not a probabilistic cause either because there needn’t be a fact of the matter how probable his escape was given the jump (maybe the events involved are too unique to be assigned a probabilistic distribution). Rather, his jump is what I call an underdeterministic cause, which elevates the modal status of the effect: the cause made possible what was otherwise impossible. But for the jump, Daedalus wouldn’t have fled, even though the jump didn’t necessitate his escape.

No one to date has offered a theory of underdeterministic causes, nor even identified them as a separate causal species. Yet, such causes are frequently studied by the humanistic, natural, and social sciences. If we want to understand what causal claims mean—not only in these disciplines, but in general—we need a theory of underdeterministic causation. My dissertation develops such a theory. Specifically, I build a framework for analyzing underdeterministic causal phenomena (ch. 1). Then, I use it to put forward a semantics of counterfactuals and an algebra of events (ch. 2), a theory of type underdeterministic causation (ch. 3), token causation (ch. 4), an account of the dynamic evolution of context (ch. 5), a superior alternative to the epistemic thesis (ch. 6), and an underdeterministic causal decision theory (ch. 7).


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wysocki, Tomasztomekwysocki@gmail.comtow110000-0003-2204-914X
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWoodward, James Fjfw@pitt.edujfw
Committee MemberGlymour,
Committee MemberGallow, J.
Committee MemberAllen,
Date: 6 September 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 August 2023
Approval Date: 6 September 2023
Submission Date: 18 July 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 157
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: causation, causal models, structural equations, counterfactuals, underdeterminism, non-determinism, decision theory, interventions
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2023 01:32
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2023 01:32

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