Understanding causation: the practicalities

Jackie Chappell

This presentation will cover two main themes, building on the philosophical distinction between Humean and Kantian causation presented in Aaron Sloman's talk. First, how did evolution equip organisms to interact with and make sense of the dynamic, noisy, complex and variable world outside their bodies? I will argue that evolution has produced a range of strategies, from mostly 'pre- configured' at one extreme to 'meta-configured' at the other, depending on the requirements and constraints imposed by the organism's life history, ontogeny and so on. Second, if evolution has produced a range of strategies for coping with causation, how can we recognise them? Which species should we be focussing on if we are interested in studying a meta-configured competences or a Kantian understanding of causation? How can we provide empirical evidence to distinguish between the different models of the understanding of causation in non-human animals or pre-linguistic humans (or for that matter, adult, linguistic humans)? These are deep and difficult questions to answer, and I doubt that I will be able to draw any definitive conclusions, but I hope to stimulate discussion and point out a number of promising directions for research.

References (also relevant to Aaron Sloman's talk):
Altricial self-organising information-processing systems
Proceedings IJCAI'05
Aaron Sloman and Jackie Chappell

Natural and artificial meta-configured altricial information-processing systems
To appear in Int Journ for Unconventional Computing
Jackie Chappell and Aaron Sloman

Computational Cognitive Epigenetics
To appear in Behavioral and Brain Sciences
(Commentary on Jablonka and Lamb: Evolution in four dimension)
Aaron Sloman and Jackie Chappell