For the last 15 years James Woodward’s interventionist theory of causation has dominated the philosophy of science. The theory defines causation in terms of interventions: manipulating some variables to affect others. As Alexander Reutlinger puts it in his new book, A Theory of Causation, interventionists think that “X is a cause of Y iff there is a possible intervention on X that changes Y” (6). In other words, if intervening on the value of variable X changes the value of variable Y, we may say that X causes Y.
Interventionist views do their best work in the “special sciences,” higher-level sciences like biology, psychology, and economics. Since Reutlinger intends to modify and extend the interventionist theory, he too focuses on the social and biological sciences.
He also limits himself to the semanticproject for causation: explicating causal concepts. The semantic project complements both the metaphysical and methodological projects. The former studies causation as a phenomenon...