Measuring causal specificity

Paul E. Griffiths, Arnaud Pocheville, Brett Calcott, Karola Stotz, Hyunju Kim, Rob Knight*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Several authors have argued that causes differ in the degree to which they are ‘specific’ to their effects. Woodward has used this idea to enrich his influential interventionist theory of causal explanation. Here we propose a way to measure causal specificity using tools from information theory. We show that the specificity of a causal variable is not well defined without a probability distribution over the states of that variable.We demonstrate the tractability and interest of our proposed measure by measuring the specificity of coding DNA and other factors in a simple model of the production of mRNA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-555
Number of pages27
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Volume82
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

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