Probabilistic empiricism: In defence of a Reichenbachian theory of causation and the direction of time
A probabilistic theory of causation is a theory which holds that the central feature of causation is that causes (usually) raise the probability of their effects. In this dissertation, I defend Hans Reichenbach's original (1953) version of the probabilistic theory of causation, which analyses causal relations in terms of a three place statistical betweenness relation. Unlike most discussions of this theory, I hold that the statistical relation should be taken as a sufficient, but not as a necessary , condition for causal betweenness. With this difference in interpretation, Reichenbach's theory is shown to be immune to all of the criticisms which have been raised against it in the last fifty years.
Reichenbach's main purpose in defending a probabilistic theory of causation was to use it in giving an analysis of the direction of time. I defend this view, arguing that the arrow of causation is more basic than any of the other arrows of time—metaphysical, psychological or physical. In particular, I argue against the popular view that the direction of time is given by the physical fact that entropy only increases in one direction. I further show that the probabilistic theory of causation is particularly suited to the task of analysing the various arrows of time. In my final chapter, I also suggest that the probabilistic theory of causation may be fruitfully applied to the analysis of some important puzzles in the interpretation of quantum mechanics.