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Foundations of Science

On the Role of Counterfactuals in Inferring Causal Effect

Causal inference in the empiricalsciences is based on counterfactuals. The mostcommon approach utilizes a statistical model ofpotential outcomes to estimate causal effectsof treatments. On the other hand, one leadingapproach to the study of causation inphilosophical logic has been the analysis ofcausation in terms of counterfactualconditionals. This paper discusses and connectsboth approaches to counterfactual causationfrom philosophy and statistics. Specifically, Ipresent the counterfactual account of causationin terms of Lewis's possible-world semantics,and reformulate the statistical potentialoutcome framework using counterfactualconditionals. This procedure highlights variousproperties and mechanisms of the statisticalmodel.

Kluve, J. (2004), On the Role of Counterfactuals in Inferring Causal Effect. Foundations of Science, 9, 1, 65-101

DOI: 10.1023/B:FODA.0000014881.82061.7b