, Volume 78, Supplement 1, pp 111–128 | Cite as

Functions and Cognitive Bases for the Concept of Actual Causation

  • David Danks


Our concept of actual causation plays a deep, ever-present role in our experiences. I first argue that traditional philosophical methods for understanding this concept are unlikely to be successful. I contend that we should instead use functional analyses and an understanding of the cognitive bases of causal cognition to gain insight into the concept of actual causation. I additionally provide initial, programmatic steps towards carrying out such analyses. The characterization of the concept of actual causation that results is quite different from many standard views: it is graded, context-sensitive, and extrinsic.


Context Effect Causal Structure Causal Reasoning Intuitive Judgment Actual Causation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Initial versions of these ideas were presented at the 2010 Konstanz workshop on actual causation. Many thanks to the participants at that workshop—particularly Ned Hall, Chris Hitchcock, and Laurie Paul—for their helpful comments, questions, and criticisms. Three anonymous referees and two editors provided valuable feedback on an earlier version of this paper. Thanks also to Clark Glymour for discussions about the issues in Sect. 2. The author was partially supported by a James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Human and Machine CognitionPensacolaUSA

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