Regularities and causality; generalizations and causal explanations

Machamer, Darden, and Craver argue (Mechanism) that causal explanations explain effects by describing the operations of the mechanisms (systems of entities engaging in productive activities) which produce them. One of this paper’s aims is to take advantage of neglected resources of Mechanism to rethink the traditional idea (Regularism) that actual or counterfactual natural regularities are essential to the distinction between causal and non-causal co-occurrences, and that generalizations describing natural regularities are essential components of causal explanations. I think that causal productivity and regularity are by no means the same thing, and that the Regularists are mistaken about the roles generalizations play in causal explanation. Humean, logical empiricist, and other Regularist accounts of causal explanation have had the unfortunate effect of distracting philosophers’ from important non-explanatory scientific uses of laws and lesser generalizations which purport to describe natural regularities. My second aim is to characterize some of these uses, illustrating them with examples from neuroscientific research.
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2005.03.009
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References found in this work BETA
Stuart Glennan (2002). Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
Jim Woodward (2002). What is a Mechanism? A Counterfactual Account. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S366-S377.
John D. Norton (2003). A Material Theory of Induction. Philosophy of Science 70 (4):647-670.
Donald Davidson (1967). Causal Relations. Journal of Philosophy 64 (21):691-703.

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Citations of this work BETA
Ingo Brigandt (2013). Systems Biology and the Integration of Mechanistic Explanation and Mathematical Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):477-492.

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