A Critique of Yoav Shoham’s Theory of Causal Reasoning

Antony Galton

Causal reasoning is an essential part of a number of tasks that have been central to many endeavours in AI-notably planning and prediction, diagnosis and explanation. Recently it has become an object of study in its own right, drawing inspiration from the work of philosophers and logicians as well as more immediately AI-oriented concerns. In this paper I shall examine just one approach to causal reasoning, that advocated by Yoav Shoham in a recent book and article. In particular, I shall try to lay bare a number of assumptions underlying Shoham’s work, all of which I shall call into question. Key assumptions are that causality is an epistemic notion, that causal reasoning is inherently non-monotonic, and that epistemic reasoining should be handled by means of modal logic. While arguing against these assumptions, I do not offer a specific causal theory of my own, but shall conclude with some suggestions as to the general lines which I feel such a theory ought to follow.

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