On 'Stabilising' medical mechanisms, truth-makers and epistemic causality: a critique to Williamson and Russo's approach

Synthese 187 (2):785-800 (2012)
In this paper I offer an anti-Humean critique to Williamson and Russo’s approach to medical mechanisms. I focus on one of the specific claims made by Williamson and Russo, namely the claim that micro-structural ‘mechanisms’ provide evidence for the stability across populations of causal relationships ascertained at the (macro-) level of (test) populations. This claim is grounded in the epistemic account of causality developed by Williamson, an account which—while not relying exclusively on mechanistic evidence for justifying causal judgements—appeals nevertheless to mechanisms, and rejects their anti-Humean interpretation in terms of capacities, powers, potencies, etc. By using (and expanding on) Cartwright’s basic critique against Humean mechanisms, I suggest that, in order to move beyond the level of plausibility, Williamson and Russo’s position is in need of a clarification as to the occurent reading of the components, functioning and interferences of mechanisms. Relatedly, as concerns Williamson’s epistemic account of causation, I argue that this account is in need of a more straightforward answer as to what truth-makers its causal claims should have.
Keywords Causation  Medical causes  Anti-Humeanism  Capacity  Cartwright  Williamson  Russo
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-011-0011-9
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Phil Dowe (2000). Physical Causation. Cambridge University Press.

View all 31 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Phyllis McKay Illari (2011). Mechanistic Evidence: Disambiguating the Russo–Williamson Thesis. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (2):139 - 157.
Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (2007). Interpreting Causality in the Health Sciences. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (2):157 – 170.
Erik Weber (2009). How Probabilistic Causation Can Account for the Use of Mechanistic Evidence. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (3):277-295.
Jon Williamson (2007). Interpreting Causality in the Health Sciences. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (2):157-170.
Jon Williamson (2009). Probabilistic Theories of Causality. In Helen Beebee, Peter Menzies & Christopher Hitchcock (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Causation. Oxford University Press 185--212.
Phyllis McKay Illari & Jon Williamson (2011). Mechanisms Are Real and Local. In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. OUP Oxford
Federica Russo (2009). Variational Causal Claims in Epidemiology. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 52 (4):540-554.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

24 ( #124,740 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #183,615 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.