Determinism and the Method of Difference

Urs Hofmann, Michael Baumgartner


The first part of this paper reveals a conflict between the core principles of deterministic causation and the standard method of difference, which is widely seen (and used) as a correct method of causally analyzing deterministic structures. We show that applying the method of difference to deterministic structures can give rise to causal inferences that contradict the principles of deterministic causation. The second part then locates the source of this conflict in an inference rule implemented in the method of difference according to which factors that can make a difference to investigated effects relative to one particular test setup are to be identified as causes, provided the causal background of the corresponding setup is homogeneous. The paper ends by modifying the method of difference in a way that renders it compatible with the principles of deterministic causation.


causal reasoning; method of difference; interventionism; determinism

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