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Published December 1, 2013 | Published
Journal Article Open

What is the 'Cause' in Causal Decision Theory?


A simple counterfactual theory of causation fails because of problems with cases of preemption. This might lead us to expect that preemption will raise problems for counterfactual theories of other concepts that have a causal dimension. Indeed, examples are easy to find. But there is one case where we do not find this. Several versions of causal decision theory are formulated using counterfactuals. This might lead us to expect that these theories will yield the wrong recommendations in cases of preemption. But they do not. The explanation, I argue, is that the 'cause' that has been the target of counterfactual analyses is a specific relation, 'actual causation', that is not needed for prospective deliberation. A simple counterfactual theory of causation seems to capture the notion of cause needed for causal decision theory. This shows, in opposition to some critics, that counterfactual theories of causation are not barking up the wrong tree.

Additional Information

© 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Received: 23 January 2013; Accepted: 23 January 2013; Published online: 19 March 2013. For discussion, suggestions, and comments, I would like to thank Kenny Easwaran, Luke Glynn, Joel Velasco, audience members at the workshop on actual causation at the University of Konstanz, audience members at the University of California, San Diego, and two anonymous referees.

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