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Colin Britcher, Ph.D.
Director of Graduate Education

Mary Catherine Bunde, M.Ed.
Senior Education Administrator

8.30.17 McDonnell

Title: Is Causality Transitive? (or: When causal chains go bad!)

Speaker: Dr. Neil McDonnell, NIA Visitor

Date: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Time: 9:30am-10:30am

Location: NIA, Room 101

Sponsor: Michael Holloway, NASA/LaRC

Abstract: One of the central platitudes that we have about causality is that it has the logical feature oftransitivity, i.e. if c is a cause of d, and d is a cause of e, then c must be a cause of e. This is implicit in our assumptions about ordinary causal chaining, and explicit in many of the leading theories of when one thing has genuinely caused another. It is widely thought that transitivity is in jeopardy, however, since there exist a range of putative counterexamples: cases where a causes b, and b causes c, but where a does not cause c. If these counterexamples are legitimate, causation is not transitive, and, if causation is not transitive, what is it that justifies our ordinary reasoning over causal chains? In this paper I will demonstrate the problem and suggest some ways we might respond to it to preserve the chaining that we want.

Bio: Dr Neil McDonnell is a philosopher with a focus on the issues around causation/causality, and a visiting researcher with NIA. He received his PhD jointly from the University of Glasgow, and from Macquarie University, and has undertaken post-doctoral research in the UK and Germany on the topics of analytic metaphysics, the philosophy of science, and epistemology. Neil is shortly to take up the Lord Kelvin Adam Smith fellowship in the Philosophy of Immersive Technology at the University of Glasgow.



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