Early in 2018 we held our Exploratory Seminar on causality at the Radcliffe Institue, where we began a conversation – really, many conversations! – with philosophers and scientists, resulting in a host of insightful and stimulating discussions. We are very excited to continue these conversations every year with our core members and some new faces. Last fall, November 1-3, 2018, our event centred on the limits of the “interventionist” approach in inequality research in the social sciences. Our upcoming event will be held on December 12-14, 2019, and we are continuing with the last year's theme with a particular interest in causal inference in the social sciences. We aim to gain insight into the shape and contour of foundational methodological debates in the social research.
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We aim to bring together senior and junior scholars from philosophy, sociology, psychology, government, medicine, public health, and other scientific communities at Harvard and at collaborating institutions to explore a range of different approaches to causality. These approaches differ in what they take causality to be, in what they take to be the best methods for discovering causal facts, and in what they take the proper role of such facts to be in prediction, control, and explanation. Our working hypothesis will be that causality is a multifaceted concept, with (at least) probabilistic, counterfactual, logical, and interventionist aspects. These distinct aspects have motivated, we hypothesize, the strikingly different approaches and theories in philosophy, cognitive science, computer science, and artificial intelligence (AI). We aim to explore the extent to which apparent conflict between these approaches simply reflects the multifaceted nature of the underlying concept. Our events will have two themes, philosophical and scientific. For the philosophical, we will address central questions in the epistemology, metaphysics, methodology, and semantics of causal notions. For the scientific, we will address the distinctive sorts of problems and progress our participating scientists have found in the use of causal inference in their respective disciplines. Our conference series will attempt to integrate these themes by explicitly considering the ways in which abstract philosophical investigation of causality can both guide and be informed by focused scientific work involving causal inference. We thereby hope to encourage dialogue across different disciplines, while beginning to flesh out a new, explicitly pluralistic framework for understanding causality.
Edward J. Hall
Norman E. Vuilleumier Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
Harvard Website: https://philosophy.fas.harvard.edu/people/edward-j-hall
Fellow in Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
Harvard Website: https://philosophy.fas.harvard.edu/people/marzieh-asgari-targhi