J. Dmitri Gallow
5 Washington Place
New York, NY 48105
jdmitrig [at] nyu [dot] edu
curriculum vitae

about

For the academic year 2014—2015, I will be a Bersoff Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in the philosophy department at New York University.

My research interests lie at the intersections of the philosophy of science, metaphysics, and epistemology. My work in metaphysics and the philosophy of science focuses on causation, counterfactuals, and chance. In epistemology, I am interested in the rational norms governing partial belief states and their relationship to the kinds of rational norms that govern full belief states.

papers

  • How to Learn from Theory-Dependent Evidence; or Commutativity and Holism: A Solution for Conditionalizers
    forthcoming in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

    Weisberg (2009) provides an argument that neither conditionalization nor Jeffrey conditionalization is capable of accomodating the confirmational holist's claim that beliefs acquired directly from experience can suffer undercutting defeat. I diagnose this failure as stemming from the fact that neither conditionalization nor Jeffrey conditionalization give any advise about how to respond to theory-dependent evidence, and I propose a novel updating procedure which does tell us how to respond to evidence like this. This holistic updating rule yeilds conditionalization as a special case when our evidence is theory-independent.

in preparation[show all] [hide all]

  • The Emergence of Causation

    Several philosophers have embraced the view that high-level—events events like Zimbabwe's monetary policy and its hyper-inflation—are causally related if their corresponding low-level, fundamental physical events are causally related. I dub the view which denies this without denying that high-level events are ever causally related causal emergentism. Several extant philosophical theories of causality entail causal emergentism, while others are inconsistent with the thesis. I illustrate this with David Lewis's two theories of causation (1973, 2000), one of which entails causal emergentism, the other of which entails its negation. I then argue for causal emergentism on the grounds that it provides the only adequate means of squaring the apparent plenitude of causal relations between low-level events with the apparent scarcity of causal relations between high-level events. This tension between the apparent abundance of low-level causation and the apparent scarcity of high-level causation has been noted before. However, it has been thought that various theses about the semantics or the pragmatics of causal claims could be used to ameliorate the tension without going in for causal emergentism. I argue that none of the suggested semantic or pragmatic strategies meet with success, and recommend emergentist theories of causality in their stead. As Lewis's 1973 account illustrates, causal emergentism is consistent with the thesis that all facts reduce to microphysical facts.

  • A Theory of Structural Determination

    While structural equations modeling is increasingly used in philosophical theorizing about causation, it remains unclear what it takes for a particular structural equations model to be correct. To the extent that this issue has been addressed, the consensus appears to be that it takes a certain family of causal counterfactuals being true. I argue that this account faces difficulties in securing the independent manipulability of the structural determination relations represented in a correct structural equations model. I then offer an alternate understanding of structural determination, and I demonstrate that this theory guarantees that structural determination relations are independently manipulable. The account provides a straightforward way of understanding hypothetical interventions, as well as a criterion for distinguishing hypothetical changes in the values of vari- ables which constitute interventions from those which do not. It additionally affords a reductive semantics for causal counterfactual conditionals which is able to yield a clean solution to a problem case for the standard 'closest possible world' semantics.

  • Diachronic Dutch Books and Evidential Import

    Whether an agent is diachronically Dutch book-able depends not merely upon how they respond to the evidence that they actually acquire; it additionally depends upon what other evidence they might have acquired instead, and how they would have responded to it. On the other hand, which other evidence an agent might have acquired and how they would have responded to it matters not at all to whether or not they conform to the belief-revision norms conditionalization and Jeffrey conditionalization—at least, given the way that those rules are standardly understood. Moreover, if the other evidence that an agent might have acquired instead is consistent with the evidence that they actually acquire, then (Jeffrey) conditionalization is diachronically Dutch bookable. If learning scenarios like these are possible, then diachronic Dutch book arguments and (Jeffrey) conditionalization entail incompatible theses about evidential import. Thus, if these learning scenarios are possible, then we must either abandon diachronic Dutch book arguments or else emend our understanding of (Jeffrey) {conditionalization}. If learning scenarios like these are not possible, then we must scale back the ambitions of the diachronic Dutch book arguments; they do not demonstrate that we must always conform to (Jeffrey) conditionalization, but only that we must do so in certain idealized circumstances. Either way, the diachronic Dutch book arguments for (Jeffrey) conditionalization are invalid.

  • Probabilistic Causation and the Markov Condition

    On one understanding of probabilistic causation, the probability attaches to the effect—c probabilistically caused e iff c deterministically caused the probability of e. On the other understanding, the probability attaches to the causal relation—c probabilistically caused e iff c caused e, though there was some probability that it wouldn't. Hausman and Woodward (1999, 2004) appeal to the former conception of probabilistic causation to show that the Causal Markov Condition will be satisfied when causation is probabilistic. I demonstrate that, pace Hausman and Woodward, this conception of probabilistic causation is incapable of establishing the Causal Markov Condition except by fiat. I then demonstrate that, on the latter conception of probabilistic causation, there are violations of the Markov Condition; however, there is a general locality constraint which is sufficient to restore the Markov Condition.

dissertation

  • The Emergence of Causation

    Many contemporary philosophers are drawn to a doctrine of causal fundamentalism. This doctrine has its epistemic and its metaphysical tenets. The epistemic tenet is that causation is to be investigated entirely, or primarily, by looking to the ground-floor level of reality. For many, this means looking to the theories of fundamental physics. Whatever causation is, it is the kind of thing which will be revealed through careful study of the fundamental physical state of the world and the fundamental physical laws of nature. According to the causal fundamentalist, causation is emphatically not to be investigated through what has come to be known as 'conceptual analysis'. It is not be investigated by constructing theories of causation and weighing them against one another in terms of how well they capture our pre-theoretic causal judgments.

    The metaphysical tenet of causal fundamentalism is that, once the causal structure of the fundamental level of reality is settled—once, that is, we know which fundamental physical events cause which other fundamental physical events—all of the world's causal structure is settled. This could either be because the fundamental causal structure is the only causal structure that there is to settle, or it could be because all other causal structure that there is in some sense reduces to that found at the fundamental physical level.

    The first part of the dissertation—consisting of chapters 1 and 2—disputes both tenets of causal fundamentalism. Chapter 1 argues against the methodology, advocated by Dowe (2000), among others, of attempting to locate causation within the theories of fundamental physics without reference to any of our pre-theoretic causal judgments—without, that is, engaging in conceptual analysis. Chapter \ref{chapter3} argues that the world comes equipped with novel and irreducible causal structure at higher levels of description. Settling the world's fundamental causal structure does not suffice to settle all of the world's causal structure. Accepting this thesis does not commit us to the view that there are irreducible higher-level laws, or irreducible higher-level properties. We can accept this thesis while consistently maintaining that, once the fundamental physical laws of nature and the fundamental physical state of the world are settled, all causal facts, at every level of description, are settled as well.

    The second part of the dissertation—consisting of chapters 3, 4, and 5—takes up the task of constructing an anti-fundamentalist theory of causation. On this theory, the causal relata are the events of parts of the world acquiring or retaining certain properties. In order for two events such as these to be causally related, one must counterfactually depend, in at least one way, upon the other, or else there must be a certain kind of chain of counterfactual dependence leading from the one to the other. This theory is broadly in the spirit of David Lewis's 1973 counterfactual account of causation. Yet, as chapter 5 demonstrates, it is able to escape the primary counterexamples which led even Lewis to eventually abandon that theory. It is the groundwork laid in chapters 3 and 4 which allows the theory to elude these counterexamples.

    The first bit of that groundwork comes in chapter 3, with the introduction of what I call structural determination relations. These are the relations which are represented in structural equations models, which have become increasingly prevalent in philosophical theorizing about causation. It remains opaque, however, what exactly it takes for one of these models to be correct—what it takes, that is, for one of these models to represent a network of structural determination relations correctly. To the extent that this question has been addressed, the answer most have found congenial is that these models are correct if and only if a certain family of causal counterfactual conditionals are true. This answer forsakes any hope of offering a reductive analysis of causal counterfactuals in terms of relations of structural determination. Moreover, if we had hoped to offer a reductive analysis of causation in terms of causal counterfactuals, then this answer forsakes any hope of offering a reductive analysis of causation in terms of relations of structural determination. In chapter 3, I note that there are other, deeper, problems with this answer as well. In particular, it cannot explain why relations of structural determination have the properties that they are standardly assumed to have—in particular, it cannot explain why relations of structural determination are independently manipulable. I therefore propose an alternate understanding of structural determination which 1) allows us to give a reductive analysis of causal counterfactual dependence—one which neatly solves a problem case for the Lewis/Stalnaker 'closest possible world' semantics; and 2) explains why relations of structural determination are independently manipulable.

    Because causal counterfactuals are evaluated relative to networks of structural determination, and because causal counterfactuals provide the truth conditions for singular causal claims, these networks of structural determination represent the pathways along which singular causal influence propagates. On the account of structural determination I outline and defend in chapter 3, merely because the fundamental state of some part of the world structurally determines the fundamental state of some other part of the world, this does not mean that the higher-level properties of the former part of the world structurally determine the higher-level properties of the latter part of the world. For this reason, settling the world's fundamental causal structure does not suffice to settle all the world's causal structure.

    In providing an account of causation which soars to such ontic heights, we risk losing sight of some more minute details of the world which end up making differences to the question of which events singularly caused with other events. In chapter 4, this risk becomes manifest. There, I review Hall (2007)'s objection that we may have two systems which---for all I or anyone else has said about what it takes for a structural equations model to be correct—are correctly modeled by the very same structural equations model. Nevertheless, these two systems differ from one another causally. In one, the event C caused the event E; whereas, in the other, the event corresponding to C didn't cause the event corresponding to E. This means that, given all I or anyone else has said about what it takes for a structural equations model to be correct, a correct structural equations model radically underdetermines the world's causal structure. Many have hoped that this problem could be dealt with by including information about which states of the world are default, and which are noteworthy deviations therefrom. In chapter 4, I show that these hopes are in vain. For there are pairs of systems which—for all I or anyone else has said—may be correctly modeled by a single structural equations model; moreover, the corresponding events in each system are all equally deviant; yet, in one system, C caused E, whereas, in the other system, the event corresponding to C didn't cause the event corresponding to E. After a discussion of the various options for dealing with this problem, I ultimately settle upon the solution that, in order to reveal singular causal information, all of the structural determination relations in a structural equations model must be autonomous, in a sense made precise in chapter 4.

    With this groundwork laid, I proceed, in chapter 5, to demonstrate that relatively minor alterations to Lewis's 1973 account of causation as the ancestral of counterfactual dependence suffice to avoid the numerous counterexamples to that view. The primary differences between Lewis's account and my own are four-fold: firstly, whereas, for Lewis, the relevant counterfactual to consider is 'if this event had not occurred, then some other event would not have occurred either', on my account, the relevant counterfactuals are roughly of the form 'had this property of the world not been what it was (or had not changed when it did), then this other property of the world would not be what it was (or would not have changed when it did)'. Because these counterfactuals do not concern the occurrence or nonoccurrence of events, we need not say anything about the modal profiles of events in order to say whether they are causally related or not. Secondly, Lewis evaluated his causal counterfactuals using the 'closest possible world' semantics of Lewis/Stalnaker. On my account, the counterfactuals are evaluated with reference to networks of structural determination. One consequence of this difference is that, whereas Lewis could only consider 'global' counterfactuals, my account allows us to consider what I call 'local' counterfactuals as well—in evaluating a local counterfactual, one looks only at the parts of the world that immediately structurally determine another part of the world, and ignores any determination relations that may exist between those determiners. So, if whether the window shatters is determined by whether Suzy throws and whether Billy throws, and whether Billy throws is determined by whether Suzy throws (he will throw iff she doesn't), then while the global counterfactual 'if Suzy hadn't thrown, the window wouldn't have shattered' is false, the local counterfactual 'if Suzy hadn't thrown, then window wouldn't have shattered' is true—because, in evaluating this counterfactual, we hold Billy's not throwing fixed. Thirdly, for Lewis, it did not matter what kinds of events were being considered—not whether they involved interesting deviations from normality, nor whether they involved a property of the world changing as opposed to remaining constant. On my account, these differences matter. The kinds of counterfactuals which must be considered differ depending upon whether we are talking about changes in the state of the world; and whether a chain of counterfactual dependence is sufficient for causation depends, in part, upon whether the events appearing in the chain are deviations from normality. Fourthly and relatedly, on Lewis's account, whenever there is a chain of counterfactual dependence running from C to E, this is sufficient for C's causing E. On my account, this is only sufficient if three additional conditions are met: 1) the chain doesn't leave out any important part of the causal process leading from C to E, in a sense to be made precise in chapter 5; 2) every event appearing in the chain is an interesting or noteworthy deviation from inertial conditions; and 3) the counterfactuals in the chain are all interlocking, in the sense that the conditions which make the consequent of a counterfactual in the chain true are the conditions considered in evaluating the antecedent of its successor in the chain. So emended, I show, throughout chapter 5, that the account can deal with cases of early and late preemption, it can accommodate the violations of transitivity, preemptive prevention, short circuits, symmetric overdetermination, preemptive double prevention, and trumping.

teaching[show all] [hide all]