TALK: Stegenga on Harms

Jacob Stegenga is giving a talk called Hollow Hunt for Harms at the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health on December 4, 1:00 p.m. E.S.T.

Anyone can watch online if they register here by 1 Dec:


Interventionism vs contrastivism about causation

I am trying to summarise (for a paper to be submitted to an epidemiology journal) the differences and similarities between interventionism (a la Woodward, Hitchcock) and contrastivism (a la Schaffer, perhaps Menzies) about causation. Are the following comments fair, and fairly comprehensive?

1) The two approaches share the view that the significance of causal claims is relative to some specified scenario in which some other specified event occurs rather than the cause (unlike pure counterfactual theories, which do not require any such specification).

2) Contrastivism (a la Schaffer) is primarily a semantic thesis about the meaning of “cause” and cognates. Specifically, contrastivism is committed to a descriptive thesis about ordinary talk, namely that “C causes E” implies “C rather than C* causes E rather than E*”, while interventionism is not committed to this (though compatible with it).

3) Interventionism seeks to explicate or shed light on characteristic patterns of counterfactual dependence that surround the instantiation of causes (without fully reducing causation to counterfactual dependence). Contrastivism does not seek to do this (though is compatible with doing so).

4) Both accounts are amenable to “cause” being left ultimately unanalysed, and proponents of each (e.g. Schaffer, Woodward) have expressed pessimism about the prospects of reducing causes to counterfactual dependence.

Comments/thoughts welcome. Thanks.