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Publication details

Reiss, Julian (2016). Suppes’ probabilistic theory of causality and causal inference in economics. Journal of Economic Methodology 23(3): 289-304.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper examines Patrick Suppes’ probabilistic theory of causality understood as a theory of causal inference, and draws some lessons for empirical economics and contemporary debates in the foundations of econometrics. It argues that a standard method of empirical economics, multiple regression, is inadequate for most but the simplest applications, that the Bayes’ nets approach, which can be understood as a generalisation of Suppes’ theory, constitutes a considerable improvement but is still subject to important limitations, and that the currently fashionable ‘design-based approach’ suffers from the same flaws Suppes anticipated a long time ago. It then sketches an alternative in response, one that differs drastically from the formalisms Suppes endorsed but is consistent with his pragmatic general take on science.