[gov3009-l] Applied Stats this Wednesday (3/5): Prof Ned Hall (Harvard Philosophy)

Wise, Tess wise at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Mar 3 09:58:23 EST 2014

Hi Everyone!

I am incredibly excited to announce this week's speaker: Professor Ned Hall from the Harvard Department of Philosophy. The working title of Professor Hall's talk is "In Praise of Causal Mechanisms." As per usual, the talk will be held in CGIS K354 on Wednesday (3/5) at 12 noon and lunch will be served.

You might be asking yourself: "Why has Tess invited a philosopher to Applied Stats?" Well, as Kurt Lewin, (sometimes considered the father of modern social psychology) once said: "There is nothing so practical as a good theory." When I need some practical theory about causality, I turn to Professor Hall's work -- especially Structural equations and causation<http://link.springer.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/article/10.1007/s11098-006-9057-9>, and his recently released edited volume, Causation and Counterfactuals<http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/causation-and-counterfactuals>.

Here's Professor Hall's abstract:

Consider two theses about causation: (1) Causes are connected to their effects by way of mediating causal mechanisms or processes. (2) Scientific inquiry aims (at least in part) at discerning and describing the causal structure of our world. Some of the best contemporary work on causation claims—often implicitly, but sometimes quite explicitly—that, in giving an account of causation, we should sacrifice (1) for the sake of producing an account that makes the best sense of (2). I will first try to show why this claim is quite attractive, and then obstreperously argue against it: I will aim to show that the best way to make sense of (2) is, in fact, by means of an account of causal structure that fully vindicates (1).

Looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday,

Tess Wise
PhD Candidate
Harvard Department of Government

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