Reading list: Starting links and books on studying ontology and causality

by aaq 1 min read5th Dec 20192 comments


(This article will be revised, as I add more to it. This is a living document.)

I recently read gwern's excellent "Why Correlation Usually ≠ Causation" notes, and, like any good reading, felt a profound sense of existential terror that caused me to write up a few half-formed thoughts on it. How exciting!

The article hasn't left my head in almost a week since I first read it, so I think it's time for me to start up a new labor of love around the topic. (It's around finals here, and I can't have the gnawing dread of the implications of the essay distract me from my "real" work, so this is just as much to assuage myself and say, "Don't worry, we have a plan on how to attack this, you can focus on what's actually important for now. You're good.")

I don't really feel like I understand the concepts at play here well enough to create a specific, well-formed question on it yet. So we'll go broad: What is the relationship between ontology and causality?

My basic hope is to read a lot of simple summaries on how different people have thought about these topics over time, and hopefully get to the point where I can at least sketch out the arguments of why they did so. (A little like learning the right way to think in order to generate a math proof without a vision problem, now that I think about it.) I think that most people who have done serious work on these topics are smart people, and the focal lens of history gives me at least a place to start thinking about them.

So: My reading list.


This section is probably going to get much bigger over the next few weeks/months as I get my bearings a little more in this world.

    • These guys are awesome. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is one of those "between Wikipedia and actual textbooks" kind of sites, much like nCatLab is, where they actually give you a taste of the details of a thing before you go into it. I'm actually going to make them my first stop for Causality, as well.