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  • 1.
    Vaassen, Bram
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies. Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA.
    Absence and abnormality2023In: Analysis, ISSN 0003-2638, E-ISSN 1467-8284, Vol. 83, no 1, p. 98-106Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Absences pose a dilemma for theories of causation. Allowing them to be causes seems to make theories too permissive (Lewis, 2000). Banning them from beingcauses seems to make theories too restrictive (Schaffer, 2000, 2004). An increasingly popular approach to this dilemma is to acknowledge that norms can affect which absences count as causes (e.g., Thomson, 2003; McGrath, 2005; Henneet al., 2017; Willemsen, 2018). In this article, I distinguish between two influential implementations of such ‘abnormality’ approaches and argue that so-called ‘double-prevention mechanisms’ provide counterexamples against both.

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  • 2.
    Vaassen, Bram
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies. Department of Philosophy, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, United States.
    AI, Opacity, and Personal Autonomy2022In: Philosophy & Technology, ISSN 2210-5433, E-ISSN 2210-5441, Vol. 35, no 4, article id 88Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Advancements in machine learning have fuelled the popularity of using AI decision algorithms in procedures such as bail hearings, medical diagnoses and recruitment. Academic articles, policy texts, and popularizing books alike warn that such algorithms tend to be opaque: they do not provide explanations for their outcomes. Building on a causal account of transparency and opacity as well as recent work on the value of causal explanation, I formulate a moral concern for opaque algorithms that is yet to receive a systematic treatment in the literature: when such algorithms are used in life-changing decisions, they can obstruct us from effectively shaping our lives according to our goals and preferences, thus undermining our autonomy. I argue that this concern deserves closer attention as it furnishes the call for transparency in algorithmic decision-making with both new tools and new challenges.

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  • 3.
    Vaassen, Bram
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
    Basic Beliefs and the Perceptual Learning Problem: A Substantial Challenge for Moderate Foundationalism2016In: Episteme: A journal of individual and social epistemology, ISSN 1742-3600, E-ISSN 1750-0117, Vol. 13, no 1, p. 133-149Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In recent epistemology many philosophers have adhered to a moderate foundationalism according to which some beliefs do not depend on other beliefs for their justification. Reliance on such ‘basic beliefs’ pervades both internalist and externalist theories of justification. In this article I argue that the phenomenon of perceptual learning – the fact that certain ‘expert’ observers are able to form more justified basic beliefs than novice observers – constitutes a challenge for moderate foundationalists. In order to accommodate perceptual learning cases, the moderate foundationalist will have to characterize the ‘expertise’ of the expert observer in such a way that it cannot be had by novice observers and that it bestows justification on expert basic beliefs independently of any other justification had by the expert. I will argue that the accounts of expert basic beliefs currently present in the literature fail to meet this challenge, as they either result in a too liberal ascription of justification or fail to draw a clear distinction between expert basic beliefs and other spontaneously formed beliefs. Nevertheless, some guidelines for a future solution will be provided.

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  • 4.
    Vaassen, Bram
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
    Causal after all: a model of mental causation for dualists2019Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    In this dissertation, I develop and defend a model of causation that allows for dualist mental causation in worlds where the physical domain is physically complete.

    In Part I, I present the dualist ontology that will be assumed throughout the thesis and identify two challenges for models of mental causation within such an ontology: the exclusion worry and the common cause worry. I also argue that a proper response to these challenges requires a thoroughly lightweight account of causation, i.e. an account that allows for causes to be metaphysically distinct from the phenomena that produce or physically necessitate their effects.

    In Part II, I critically evaluate contemporary responses to these challenges from the philosophical literature. In particular, I discuss (i) List and Stoljar’s criticism of exclusion worries, (ii) Kroedel’s alternative dualist ontology, (iii) concerns about the notion of causal sufficiency, and (iv) Lowe’s models of dualist mental causation. I argue that none of these proposals provide independent motivation for a thoroughly lightweight account of causation and therefore leave room for improvement.

    In the first four chapters of Part III, I develop a thoroughly lightweight model of causation, which builds on interventionist approaches to causation. First, I explain how so-called ‘holding fixed’-requirements in standard interventionist accounts stand in the way of dualist mental causation. I then argue that interventionist accounts should impose a robustness condition on causal correlations and that, with this condition in place, the ‘holding fixed’-requirements can be weakened such that they do allow for dualist mental causation. I dub the interventionist model with such weakened ‘holding fixed’-requirements ‘insensitive interventionism’, argue that it can counter the exclusion worry as well as the common cause worry, and explain under which circumstances it would predict there to be dualist mental causation. Importantly, these circumstances might, for all we know, hold in the actual world.

    In the final three chapters of Part III, I defend insensitive interventionism against some objections. I consider the objection that causation must be productive, the objection that causes must (in some sense) physically necessitate their effects, and the objection that insensitive interventionism is too permissive. I respond by drawing from the literature on causation by absences and on the relation between causation and fundamental physics. Overall, insensitive interventionism performs as well as standard interventionist accounts. I conclude that insensitive interventionism is a credible model of causation.

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  • 5.
    Vaassen, Bram
    Department of Philosophy, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
    Causal exclusion without causal sufficiency2021In: Synthese, ISSN 0039-7857, E-ISSN 1573-0964, Vol. 198, p. 10341-10353Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Some non-reductionists claim that so-called ‘exclusion arguments’ against their position rely on a notion of causal sufficiency that is particularly problematic. I argue that such concerns about the role of causal sufficiency in exclusion arguments are relatively superficial since exclusionists can address them by reformulating exclusion arguments in terms of physical sufficiency. The resulting exclusion arguments still face familiar problems, but these are not related to the choice between causal sufficiency and physical sufficiency. The upshot is that objections to the notion of causal sufficiency can be answered in a straightforward fashion and that such objections therefore do not pose a serious threat to exclusion arguments.

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  • 6.
    Vaassen, Bram
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies. 1630 Idésam, Umeå University.
    Dualism and Exclusion2021In: Erkenntnis, ISSN 0165-0106, E-ISSN 1572-8420, Vol. 86, no 3, p. 543-552Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Many philosophers argue that exclusion arguments cannot exclude non-reductionist physicalist mental properties from being causes without excluding properties that are patently causal as well. List and Stoljar (Australas J Philos 95(1):96–108, 2017) recently argued that a similar response to exclusion arguments is also available to dualists, thereby challenging the predominant view that exclusion arguments undermine dualist theories of mind. In particular, List and Stoljar maintain that exclusion arguments against dualism require a premise that states that, if a property is metaphysically distinct from the sufficient cause of an effect, this property cannot be a cause of that effect. I argue that this premise is indeed likely to exclude patently causal properties, but that exclusion arguments against dualism do not require this premise. The relation that enables metaphysically distinct properties to cause the same effect in the relevant way turns out to be tighter than the relation typically posited between dualist conscious properties and their underlying physical properties. It is therefore still plausible that the latter causally exclude the former and that compelling exclusion arguments against dualism can be formulated by using a weaker exclusion premise. I conclude by proposing such a formulation.

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  • 7.
    Vaassen, Bram
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
    Halfway proportionality2022In: Philosophical Studies, ISSN 0031-8116, E-ISSN 1573-0883, Vol. 179, p. 2823-2843Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    According to the so-called ‘proportionality principle’, causes should be proportional to their effects: they should be both enough and not too much for the occurrence of their effects. This principle is the subject of an ongoing debate. On the one hand, many maintain that it is required to address the problem of causal exclusion and take it to capture a crucial aspect of causation. On the other hand, many object that it renders accounts of causation implausibly restrictive and often reject the principle wholesale. I argue that there is exaggeration on both sides. While one half of the principle is overly demanding, the other half is unobjectionable. And while the unobjectionable half does not block exclusion arguments on its own, it provides a nuanced picture of higher-level causation, fits with recent developments in philosophy of causation, and motivates adjustments to standard difference-making accounts of causation. I conclude that at least half of the proportionality principle is worth taking seriously.

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  • 8.
    Vaassen, Bram
    Umeå University.
    Mental causation for standard dualists2024In: Australasian Journal of Philosophy, ISSN 0004-8402, E-ISSN 1471-6828Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The standard objection to dualist theories of mind is that they seemingly cannot account for the obvious fact that mental phenomena cause our behaviour. On the plausible assumption that all our behaviour is physically necessitated by entirely physical phenomena, there appears to be no room for dualist mental causation. Some argue that dualists can address this problem by making minimal adjustments in their ontology. I argue that no such adjustments are required. Given recent developments in philosophy of causation, it is plausible that mental phenomena cause behaviour in standard dualist ontologies.

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  • 9.
    Vaassen, Bram
    et al.
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
    Sandgren, Alex
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
    And therefore2021In: Inquiry, ISSN 0020-174X, E-ISSN 1502-3923Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article focuses on ‘therefore’ constructions such as ‘The switch is on, and therefore the lights are on’. We submit that the contribution of ‘therefore’ is to express a dependence as part of the core content of these constructions, rather than being conveyed by conventional implicature [Grice, H. P. 1975. “Logic and Conversation.” In The Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary in Philosophy, edited by M. Ezcurdia, and R. J. Stainton, 41–58. Broadview Press; Potts, C. 2005. The Logic of Conventional Implicatures. Oxford University Press] or a triggered presupposition [Pavese, C. 2017. “On the Meaning of ‘Therefore’.” Analysis 77 (1): 88–97. Pavese, C. 2021. “Lewis Carroll’s Regress and the Presuppositional Structure of Arguments.” Linguistics and Philosophy; Stokke, A. 2017. “II—Conventional Implicature, Presupposition, and Lying.” Aristotelian Society Supplementary 91 (1): 127–147]. We argue that the standard objections to this view can be answered by relying on the general projection hypothesis defended by Roberts et al. and Simons et al. [Roberts, C., M. Simons, J. Tonhauser, and D. I. Beaver. 2009. Presuppositions, Conventional Implicature, and Beyond: A Unified Account of Projection; Simons, M., J. Tonhauser, D. Beaver, and C. Roberts. 2010. “What Projects and Why.” Semantics and Linguistic Theory 20: 309–327], leaving our view on solid ground.

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