Foundations of Physics

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 512–523 | Cite as

Reichenbachian Common Cause Systems Revisited

  • Claudio MazzolaEmail author


According to Reichenbach’s principle of common cause, positive statistical correlations for which no straightforward causal explanation is available should be explained by invoking the action of a hidden conjunctive common cause. Hofer-Szabó and Rédei’s notion of a Reichenbachian common cause system is meant to generalize Reichenbach’s conjunctive fork model to fit those cases in which two or more common causes cooperate in order to produce a positive statistical correlation. Such a generalization is proved to be unsatisfactory in the light of a probabilistic conception of causation. Accordingly, an alternative model for systems of multiple common causes is offered, which is capable of emulating the explanatory efficacy of Reichenbachian common cause systems, while overcoming their major conceptual shortcomings at the same time.


Common causes Conjunctive forks Positive correlations Reichenbachian common cause systems Screening-off 



I would like to thank all members of the ALOPHIS research group at the University of Cagliari for their kind support, as well as two anonymous referees for their fruitful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Time, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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