The Counterfactual NESS Definition of Causation


  • Sander Beckers Ludwig Maximilian University - Munich


Action, Change, and Causality


Beckers & Vennekens recently proposed a definition of actual causation that is based on certain plausible principles, thereby allowing the debate on causation to shift away from its heavy focus on examples towards a more systematic analysis. This paper contributes to that analysis in two ways. First, I show that their definition is in fact a formalization of Wright’s famous NESS definition of causation combined with a counterfactual difference-making condition. This means that their definition integrates two highly influential approaches to causation that are claimed to stand in opposition to each other. Second, I modify their definition to offer a substantial improvement: I weaken their difference-making condition in such a way that it avoids their problematic analysis of cases of preemption. The resulting Counterfactual NESS definition of causation forms a natural compromise between counterfactual approaches and the NESS approach.




How to Cite

Beckers, S. (2021). The Counterfactual NESS Definition of Causation. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 35(7), 6210-6217. Retrieved from



AAAI Technical Track on Knowledge Representation and Reasoning