A glimpse of the

Perspectives on Science 12 (3) (2004)
Abstract
: Among the current philosophical accounts of causation two are the most prominent. The first is James Woodward's interventionist counterfactual approach; the second is the mechanistic approach advocated by Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, Carl Craver, Jim Bogen and Stuart Glennan. Thecounterfactual approach takes it that causes make a difference to their effects, where this difference-making is cashed out in terms of actual and counterfactual interventions. The mechanistic approach takes it that two events are causally related if and only if there is a mechanism that connects them. In this paper I examine them both in some detail. After pointing out some important problems that both approaches face, I argue that there is a sense in which the counterfactual approach is more basic than the mechanistic one in that a proper account of mechanisms depends on counterfactuals while counterfactuals need not be supported (or depend on) mechanisms. Nonetheless, I also argue that if both approaches work in tandem in practice, they can offer us a better understanding of aspects of Hume's secret connexion and hence a glimpse of it
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