Underdetermination in Causal Inference

Jiji Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


One conception of underdetermination is (hat it corresponds to the impossibility of reliable inquiry. In other words, underdetermination is defined to be the situation where, given a set of background assumptions and a space of hypotheses, it is logically impossible for any hypothesis selection method to meet a given reliability standard. From this perspective, underdetermination in a given subject of inquiry is a matter of interplay between background assumptions and reliability or success criteria. In this paper I discuss underdetermination in causal inference along this line. In particular I will analyze several success criteria that can be applied to causal inference from statistical regularities. The criteria center on the notions of consistency in mathematical statistics. For each criterion I present its epistemic implication in terms of simple conditions under which the criterion cannot possibly be met. I then investigate which of the familiar principles and their variants in the literature, if adopted as background assumptions, are sufficient (or insufficient) to overcome different levels of underdetermination induced by the success criteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-47
Number of pages32
JournalStudies in Logic
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2009


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