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Bright, Liam Kofi, Daniel Malinsky, Morgan Thompson. Causally Interpreting Intersectionality Theory
2016, Philosophy of Science 83(1): 60–81
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: Social scientists report difficulties in drawing out testable predictions from the literature on intersectionality theory. We alleviate that difficulty by showing that some characteristic claims of the intersectionality literature can be interpreted causally. The formal-ism of graphical causal modeling allows claims about the causal effects of occupying intersecting identity categories to be clearly represented and submitted to empirical test-ing. After outlining this causal interpretation of intersectional theory, we address some concerns that have been expressed in the literature claiming that membership in demo-graphic categories can have causal effects.

Comment: This text contains a summary of some key concepts in intersectionality theory and a discussion of how they have been used in empirical sociological research, as well as an introduction to methods of causal statistical inference. Students needing an introduction to any of these things could therefore benefit from this text. It also contains arguments about the permissibility of using demographic categories as the basis of causal claims that may be interesting matters of dispute or discussion for students of the philosophy of race.

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Lynch, Kate E., , . Heritability and causal reasoning
2017, Biology & Philosophy 32: 25–49.
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Hannah Rubin

Abstract: Gene–environment (G–E) covariance is the phenomenon whereby genetic differences bias variation in developmental environment, and is particularly problematic for assigning genetic and environmental causation in a heritability analysis. The interpretation of these cases has differed amongst biologists and philosophers, leading some to reject the utility of heritability estimates altogether. This paper examines the factors that influence causal reasoning when G–E covariance is present, leading to interpretive disagreement between scholars. It argues that the causal intuitions elicited are influenced by concepts of agency and blame-worthiness, and are intimately tied with the conceptual understanding of the phenotype under investigation. By considering a phenotype-specific approach, I provide an account as to why causal ascriptions can differ depending on the interpreter. Phenotypes like intelligence, which have been the primary focus of this debate, are more likely to spark disagreement for the interpretation of G–E covariance cases because the concept and ideas about its ‘normal development’ relatively ill-defined and are a subject of debate. I contend that philosophical disagreement about causal attributions in G–E covariance cases are in essence disagreements regarding how a phenotype should be defined and understood. This moves the debate from one of an ontological flavour concerning objective causal claims, to one concerning the conceptual, normative and semantic dependencies.

Comment: This paper discusses difficulties for determining whether traits like intelligence are heritable, drawing on philosophical work regarding causal intuitions. It’s accessible enough to use in a lower-level undergraduate course, but also generates good discussion in a graduate level course. It could be used to further a discussion about the nature of genes or in a discussion of philosophy of race/gender from a biological perspective.

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