Actual Causality

Hardcover | August 12, 2016

byJoseph Y. Halpern

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Causality plays a central role in the way people structure the world; we constantly seek causal explanations for our observations. But what does it even mean that an event C "actually caused" event E? The problem of defining actual causation goes beyond mere philosophical speculation. For example, in many legal arguments, it is precisely what needs to be established in order to determine responsibility. The philosophy literature has been struggling with the problem of defining causality since Hume.

In this book, Joseph Halpern explores actual causality, and such related notions as degree of responsibility, degree of blame, and causal explanation. The goal is to arrive at a definition of causality that matches our natural language usage and is helpful, for example, to a jury deciding a legal case, a programmer looking for the line of code that cause some software to fail, or an economist trying to determine whether austerity caused a subsequent depression.

Halpern applies and expands an approach to causality that he and Judea Pearl developed, based on structural equations. He carefully formulates a definition of causality, and building on this, defines degree of responsibility, degree of blame, and causal explanation. He concludes by discussing how these ideas can be applied to such practical problems as accountability and program verification. Technical details are generally confined to the final section of each chapter and can be skipped by non-mathematical readers.

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Causality plays a central role in the way people structure the world; we constantly seek causal explanations for our observations. But what does it even mean that an event C "actually caused" event E? The problem of defining actual causation goes beyond mere philosophical speculation. For example, in many legal arguments, it is preci...

Joseph Y. Halpern is Professor in the Computer Science Department at Cornell University. He is the coauthor of Reasoning about Knowledge and the author of Reasoning about Uncertainty (both published by the MIT Press).

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9 × 7 × 0.5 inPublished:August 12, 2016Publisher:The MIT PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0262035022

ISBN - 13:9780262035026

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In this book, Joseph Halpern, a leading theorist of causality, develops a formal approach that revises and extends his earlier seminal work on counterfactual-based models for causation. The book includes a very informative, clear, and interesting discussion of the role and application of different features of causal models, and presents a new approach to modeling the causal features of responsibility, blame, and explanation. It is an important contribution to debates in philosophy and psychology about the nature of causal modeling and its application to real-world causation.