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Causal Inference and the Language of Experimentation - Literature review Example

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This essay "Causal Inference and the Language of Experimentation" analyses three conditions for inferring cause: 1) contiguity between the effect and the cause; 2) precedence of the cause in relation with the effect, and 3) the constant presence of the cause whenever the effect is obtained…
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Causal Inference and the Language of Experimentation
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Download file to see previous pages For Cook and Campbell (1979), however, the most significant contribution of John Stuart Mill to the theory of causality pertains to his notions of the criteria, principles, or “methods” of agreement, differences, and concomitant variation. The principle of agreement “states that an effect will be present when the cause is present” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 182). The principle of difference “states that the effect will be absent when the cause is absent” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 182). Finally, the principle of concomitant variation “implies that when both of the above relationships are observed, causal inferences will be all stronger since certain other interpretations of the co-variation between the cause effects can be ruled out” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 182). According to Cook and Campbell (1979, p. 183), “at its core , the Method of Concomitant Variation involves examining a somewhat complex pattern of data in order to induce whether a treatment is associated with an effect and whether some rival causal explanations can be ruled out on the basis of when the treatment and effect are and are not related.” Cook and Campbell (1979, p. 183) pointed out that “the concept of a control group is implicit here and is clearly central in Mill’s thinking about the cause.”
In 1913, Bertrand Russell “looked to physics and astronomy of his day as the most mature sciences, and he noted their lack of concern with unobservables and explicitness and parsimony of the functional relationships that physicists sought to test” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 172-173). However, Russell had asked that asked whether the concept of cause continues to be relevant given that cause “is not implied by functional relationships of the mathematical form” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 173). The Russell viewpoint is positivist “rejecting unobservables (like cause), and seeking to establish explicit functional laws between continuously measured variables in a closed system” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 173). Positivists like Russell believe that “causation is unnecessary because it is unobservable” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 175).
The essentialist viewpoint “argue that the term cause should only be used to refer to variables that explain a phenomenon in the sense that these variables, when taken together, are both necessary and sufficient for the effect to occur” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 177). The essentialists “equates cause with a constellation of variables that necessarily, inevitably and infallibly results in the effect” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 177). In contrast, those “who restrict cause to observable necessary and sufficient conditions (or sufficient conditions that operate when all the necessary conditions are met) reject as causes those factors which are known to bring about effects sometimes, but not always” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 177).
For Cook and Campbell (1979, p. 184), the view articulated by Karl Popper in 1959 is among the “more contemporary.” Popper emphasized the necessity of “basing knowledge on ruling out alternative explanations of phenomena so as to remain, the researcher hopes, with only a single conceivable explanation” (Cook and Campbell 1979, p. 184). ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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