Following the FAD: Folk Attributions and Theories of Actual Causation

Jonathan Livengood, Justin Sytsma, David Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the last decade, several researchers have proposed theories of actual causation that make use of structural equations and directed graphs. Many of these researchers are committed to a widely-endorsed folk attribution desideratum (FAD), according to which an important constraint on the acceptability of a theory of actual causation is agreement between the deliverances of the theory with respect to specific cases and the reports of untutored individuals about those same cases. In the present article, we consider a small collection of related theories of actual causation, including a purely structural theory and two theories that supplement the structural equations with considerations of defaults, typicality, and normality. We argue that each of these three theories are meant to satisfy the FAD, and then we present empirical evidence that they fail to do so for several variations on a simple scenario from the literature. Drawing on our previous work on the responsibility view of folk causal attribitons, we conclude by offering a solution that allows the latter two theories to satisfy the FAD for these cases. The solution is to give up on concerns with typicality and focus on injunctive norms in supplementing the graphical modeling machinery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-294
Number of pages22
JournalReview of Philosophy and Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Philosophy


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