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Primary Submission Category: Generalizability/Transportability

An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Building Causal Knowledge using Evidential Pluralism

Authors: James Grace,

Presenting Author: James Grace*

In this talk, I present a map of the fields of science that allows us to consider some of the major differences among fields and the bases for those differences that are relevant to causal studies. In addition, I suggest a number of linguistic distinctions as aids to clarify discussion and improve communication. An important conclusion from this examination, which is in accordance with the consensus view of causal scholars/philosophers, is that the study of causality must be treated as a pluralistic enterprise. By itself, this recognition is not sufficiently helpful to point a way forward. However, a new philosophical thesis “Evidential Pluralism” (first developed for the field of medicine) provides a promising epistemological system for causal studies suitable for all scientific disciplines and a wide variety of intentions. Evidential Pluralism maintains that the ideal approach to establishing causal claims requires both empirical evidence and relevant mechanistic knowledge. This combination permits general causal claims with external validity. At present, a major challenge for this system is to decide more precisely how to use mechanistic knowledge to enhance the robustness of empirical studies, and vice versa. An important element of the solution will be to shift emphasis from simply making causal claims to building causal knowledge.