This book offers a new approach for defining causality and such related
notions as degree of responsibility, degrees of blame, and causal
explanation. Causality plays a central role in the way people structure
the world; we constantly seek causal explanations for our observations.
But what does it even mean that an event C 'actually caused' event
E? The problem of defining actual causation goes beyond mere philosophical
speculation. For example, in many legal arguments, it is precisely
what needs to be established in order to determine responsibility.
The philosophy literature has been struggling with the problem of
defining causality since Hume. In this book, Halpern explores actual
causality, and such related notions as degree of responsibility,
degree of blame, and causal explanation. The goal is to arrive at
a definition of causality that matches our natural language usage
and is helpful, for example, to a jury deciding a legal case, a programmer
looking for the line of code that cause some software to fail, or
an economist trying to determine whether austerity caused a subsequent
depression. Halpern applies and expands an approach to causality
that he and Judea Pearl developed, based on structural equations.
He carefully formulates a definition of causality, and building on
this, defines degree of responsibility, degree of blame, and causal
explanation. He concludes by discussing how these ideas can be applied
to such practical problems as accountability and program verification.