PHIL 302 Topics in Epistemology and Metaphysics: Causation

Fall Semester 2012 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: Professor H. Andersen


This course will survey contemporary approaches to causation. Issues to be addressed will range from the metaphysics of causation and the status of causation as a fundamental feature (or not) of our world, to epistemological considerations such as causal modeling techniques and search algorithms. Students should expect at least some probability calculations during the applied sections of the course. We will also address the interaction between theories of causation and other philosophical issues: does our view of agency, for instance, change when we consider causation to be a microphysical process versus counterfactual in character? This course will be useful for those interested in causation and issues in metaphysics and epistemology or philosophy of science, but students interested in other fields will also learn useful techniques for evaluating the legitimacy of various causal claims.


  • Making Things Happen, by James Woodward
  • Counterfactuals, by David Lewis
  • Registration at OLI Causal and Statistical Reasoning course (note: there is a $15.00 registration fee for this online resource; a course code will be provided to students)
  • Other readings will be made available via WebCT


Students will complete 5 short papers and 5 précis of readings, in five weeks of their choosing. Précis and short papers will be due in the week in which the articles addressed in those précis and papers are covered.

  • Module completion at the OLI Causal and Statistical Reasoning course will be 10% of the overall grade. (note: information on registration and module completion will be supplied to students over the summer, so they can, if they wish, begin the modules before the term starts).
  • Précis will be worth 4% each, for a total of 20% of the overall grade.
  • Short papers will be worth 14% each, for a total of 70% of the total grade.

 Prerequisite: PHIL 201 or 203.