TitleCausation & Technical Problem Solving: An analysis of causal knowledge underlying proposed solutions for technical problems.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationSubmitted
AuthorsDe Bal, I, Weber, E

In this paper we analyse the causal underpinnings of remedy claims found in technical problem solving instructions. For these claims to be successful, they need to be based on causal relations that hold in the world and that have certain properties. These required properties are the focus of our paper. We first introduce several examples from car- and bike repair manuals that demarcate our topic and function as illustrations throughout the paper. We then formulate three success criteria for problem solving manuals: the efficiency requirement, the no harm requirement and the maximal assistance ideal. These criteria determine the required strength and properties of the causal relation, and are used to frame our analysis. We start from theories of causation by Ronald Giere, Ellery Eells and John Mackie and develop a series of definitions to capture the properties of the aforementioned causal relations. We conclude that remedy claims need to be based on causal relations with the following property: positive causal factorhood with weak context-unanimity. Moreover, it is desirable to look for Mackie causes, viz. causes that are sufficient in maximally normal contexts. We finally show that our analysis is not limited to means of conveyance (this is the field in which our initial examples are located) by means of a case study from a different field (radio repair manuals).

Citation KeyDeBalWeber2017
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