Open Thread: What is Causation?

Last week, I discussed “The Big Lie goes viral” in terms of the causes of the financial crisis.

But that commentary begged the issue: What exactly is “Causation“?

This is a precise term of art that has a very specific meaning. Many of the world’s greatest thinkers, from Aristotle to Kant to Hume, have examined exactly what causality is. It plays a major role in the fields of Law, Physics, Logic and Economics.

To me, Causality is the relationship between one event (“the cause”) and a second event (“the effect”). I want to focus on the nature of that relationship. How and when can we say that one event is a consequence of another?

To assess how blameworthy any factor is regarding the cause of a subsequent event, I look at the following:

1) Is that factor proximate?

2) Is it statistically valid? Asked another way, does any data eliminate that factor?

3) Last, is that factor Necessary to the outcome? Is it Sufficient?

All of these elements are not necessary to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship; however, a lack of these factors is quite damning to claims of causation.

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