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Causation: Empirical Trends and Future Directions



Empirical research has recently emerged as a key method for understanding the nature of causation, and our concept of causation. One thread of research aims to test intuitions about the nature of causation in a variety of classic cases. These experiments have principally been used to try to resolve certain debates within analytic philosophy, most notably that between proponents of transference and dependence views of causation. The other major thread of empirical research on our concept of causation has investigated the role that normative considerations play in causal judgments. These experimental results suggest that philosophical accounts of our concept of causation should take a broader view of what might be relevant. For both lines of research, we describe some of the significant experiments and outline key philosophical morals that have been drawn, all while pointing out various limitations. We conclude by considering other kinds of empirical research that should be philosophically interesting for those studying the nature of causation and our concept of causation. In particular, we point towards the need for philosophical research about causal perception, causal reasoning, and causal learning, as well as ways in which this research could play a role in prescriptive metaphysics.