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Although the whirlwind tour in this short article is woefully inadequate, the references below (and especially their bibliographies) should be sufficient to point interested readers to the voluminous literature on causation produced in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Although the literature is vast and somewhat inchoate, it is safe to say that no reductive analysis of causation has emerged still afloat and basically seaworthy. What has been described here as the interdisciplinary theory of causation takes direct causation as a primitive, defines intervention from direct causation, and then connects causal systems to probabilities and statistical evidence through axioms, including the Causal Markov Axiom. Although it provides little comfort for those hoping to analyze causation Socratically, the theory does open the topic of causal epistemology in a way that has affected statistical and scientific practice, hopefully for the better. Surely that is some progress.


Two variables A and B are "causally connected" if either A is a cause of B, B a cause of A, or a third variable causes them both. If causation is transitive, then it turns out that everything causally connected to X is connected to its effects, but not everything connected to Y is connected to its causes. When X → Y, everything causally connected to X is causally connected to Y (Fig. 7a), but something causally connected to Y is not necessarily causally connected to X (Fig. 7b).

Figure 7. The asymmetry in the transitivity of causal connection
SOURCE: Courtesy of the author


Bell, J. "On the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox." Physics 1 (1964): 195–200.

Cartwright, Nancy. "Against Modularity, the Causal Markov Condition, and Any Link between the Two." British Journal for Philosophy of Science 53 (2002): 411–453.

——. "Causal Laws and Effective Strategies." Noûs 13 (1979).

——. How the Laws of Physics Lie. New York: Oxford University Press. 1983.

——. Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Dowe, Phil. "Causality and Explanation." British Journal for Philosophy of Science 51 (2000): 165–174.

Glymour, Clark. "Review of James Woodward, Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation." British Journal for Philosophy of Science. Forthcoming.

Hausman, Daniel. Causal Asymmetries. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

——. "Causal Priority." Noûs 18 (1984): 261–279.

Halpern, J., and Judea Pearl. "Actual Causality." IJCAI Proceedings. 2002.

Hitchcock, C. "The Intransitivity of Causation Revealed in Equations and Graphs." Journal of Philosophy 98 (2001): 273–299.

——. "Of Humean Bondage." British Journal for Philosophy of Science 54 (2003): 1–25.

Holland, Paul. "Statistics and Causal Inference." Journal of the American Statistical Association 81 (1986): 945–960.

Kiiveri, H., and T. Speed. "Structural Analysis of Multivariate Data: A Review." In Sociological Methodology, edited by S. Leinhardt. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1982.

Lauritzen, Steffen. Graphical Models. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Lewis, David. "Causation as Influence." Journal of Philosophy 97 (2000): 182–197.

——. Counterfactuals. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973.

Mackie, John. The Cement of the Universe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

McKim, S., and S. Turner. Causality in Crisis? Statistical Methods and the Search for Causal Knowledge in the Social Sciences. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997.

Meek, C., and C. Glymour. "Conditioning and Intervening." British Journal for Philosophy of Science 45 (1994): 1001–1021.

Papineau, David. "Causal Asymmetry." British Journal for Philosophy of Science 36 (1985): 273–289.

Pearl, Judea. Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

——. Probabilistic Reasoning in Intelligent Systems. San Mateo, Calif.: Morgan and Kaufman, 1988.

Reichenbach, Hans. The Direction of Time. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956.

Salmon, Wes. Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Simon, Herbert. "Spurious Correlation: A Causal Interpretation." JASA 49 (1954): 467–479.

Spirtes, Peter, Clark Glymour, and Richard Scheines. Causation, Prediction, and Search. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000.

Spohn, Wolfgang. "Deterministic and Probabilistic Reasons and Causes." Erkenntnis 19 (1983): 371–396.

Suppes, Patrick. A Probabilistic Theory of Causality. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1970.

Woodward, James. Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Wright, Sewall. "The Method of Path Coefficients." Annals of Mathematical Statistics 5 (1934): 161–215.

Richard Scheines

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Categorical judgement to ChimaeraCausation - Modern Theories Of Causation, The 1970s And Early 1980s: The Age Of Causal Analyses, Event Causation Versus Causal Generalizations