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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 114, Issue 11, November 2017

H. K. Andersen
Pages 592-622
DOI: 10.5840/jphil20171141142

Patterns, Information, and Causation

This paper articulates an account of causation as a collection of information-theoretic relationships between patterns instantiated in the causal nexus. I draw on Dennett’s account of real patterns to characterize potential causal relata as patterns with specific identification criteria and noise tolerance levels, and actual causal relata as those patterns instantiated at some spatiotemporal location in the rich causal nexus as originally developed by Salmon. I develop a representation framework using phase space to precisely characterize causal relata, including their degree(s) of counterfactual robustness, causal profiles, causal connectivity, and privileged grain size. By doing so, I show how the philosophical notion of causation can be rendered in a format that is amenable for direct application of mathematical techniques from information theory such that the resulting informational measures are causal informational measures. This account provides a metaphysics of causation that supports interventionist semantics and causal modeling and discovery techniques.