Dr Shyane Siriwardena

Postdoctoral Fellow

Summary: Researcher working on 'Thinking Counterfactually' Leverhulme funded project.

Location: 3.07 Botany House

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow currently working with John Divers on his Leverhulme research project, Thinking Counterfactually.

My areas of specialisation are in causation, counterfactuals, and our concepts thereof. I am interested in the ways in which we reason (and speak) causally and counterfactually. Why do we reason in these ways? How is the first sort of reasoning related to the second? What are the rules that govern causal and counterfactual reasoning?

My most recent work concerned one particular theory of our causal discourse and reasoning: Huw Price's agency theory of causation.  Price (forthcoming) argues that the agency theory of Menzies and Price (1993)—a manipulationist theory of causation based on our ability to bring about events—is best understood as describing the rules for causal discourse in terms of effective strategies. Moreover, he argues that the theory provides an expressivist account of our discourse, exhaustively explaining the usage and function of our causal discourse without appealing to causes themselves. I argue that Price's project fails. I show that (1) his theory is descriptively inadequate, and (2) in making the theory descriptively adequate, it ceases to be expressivist. I conclude by arguing that there is a deep tension between manipulationism and expressivism about causation more broadly, and maintain that we are unlikely to find an account of causation that is both manipulationist and expressivist.  

My work on causation, and in particular on counterfactual theories such as Woodward’s (2003), has provided the foundation for my new project. In the project above, I argued that a subjective version of Woodward’s interventionism should adopt a suppositional semantics of counterfactuals (Edgington (2004, 2011)). In my next project, I will engage in an extended defence of the suppositional theory of counterfactuals by arguing that it can best explain our use of counterfactuals in reasoning and explanation.

Beyond matters philosophical, I have written briefly on my experience with mental illness in academia. These musings can be found here.

My personal website can be found here