The definitions of actual cause given by Pearl and Halpern (HP) in the framework of causal models provided vital computational insight into an old philosophical problem but by no means resolved it. One source of concern is the lack of objective criteria for selecting possible worlds to be admitted into the counterfactual analysis, epitomized by the competition between multiple proposals by HP and others. Another concern is due to the modest expressivity of propositional-level structural equations which limits their applicability and, arguably, contributes to the the former problem. We tackle both of these issues using a novel approach. We build our definition of actual cause from first principles in the context of atemporal situation calculus (SC) action theories with sequential actions. As a result, we can successfully identify actual causes of conditions expressed in first-order logic. We validate the HP approach by providing a formal translation from causal models to SC and proving a relationship between our definitions of actual cause and that of HP. Using well-known and new examples, we show that long-standing disagreements between alternative definitions of actual causality can be mitigated by faithful SC modelling of the domains.
Published Date: 2018-02-08
Registration: ISSN 2374-3468 (Online) ISSN 2159-5399 (Print)
Copyright: Published by AAAI Press, Palo Alto, California USA Copyright © 2018, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence All Rights Reserved.