“Causes, cycles, equilibria” (9/15/17)

January 24, 2018

Tomek Wysocki

Abstract: Superman’s laser rays meet Faora’s halfway. If he closes his eyes, the rays from her eyes will hit him, and Superman will be no more. The same holds for her. Thus, Superman’s beaming causes Faora’s beaming, but her beaming causes his as well, and the spectacle goes on forever.

The fight of these two constitutes a counterexample to Hitchcock’s account of causation (2001), and my aim is to show how. First, I describe his account; on this account, causal claims can be determined from acyclic graphs describing a situation under consideration. Then, I show how the case above poses problems for the account. Finally, I present a macroeconomic model that is more naturally analyzed with a cyclic graph and propose how to deal with causal claims in situations described by such graphs. Although I focus on Hitchcock’s account, my argument targets any structural equations framework that doesn’t allow cycles.


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