In the literature on scientific explanation two types of pluralism are very common. The first concerns the distinction between explanations of singular facts and explanations of laws: there is a consensus that they have a different structure. The second concerns the distinction between causal explanations and uni.cation explanations: most people agree that both are useful and that their structure is different. In this article we argue for pluralism within the area of causal explanations: we claim that the (...) structure of a causalexplanation depends on the causal structure of the relevant fragment of the world and on the interests of the explainer. (shrink)
From 1959 until 1969, Heidegger lectured to psychiatrists and psychiatry students at the University of Zurich Psychiatric Clinic and in Zollikon. The transcriptions of these lectures were published as the Zollikon Seminars. In these seminars Heidegger is highly critical of psychoanalysis, because of its causal and objectifying approach to the human being. In general, Heidegger considers it an objectification or even an elimination of the human being to approach a patient from a causal perspective. In our view Heidegger (...) has overlooked the peculiar nature and complexity of psychotherapy and psychiatry, namely that psychiatry is not just a discipline that combines a hermeneutical approach and a natural science approach on a theoretical level, but it also deals with psychopathology in practice. We argue, also referring to Strawson and Gadamer, that in psychiatric practice causalexplanation and hermeneutic understanding are no mutually exclusive approaches. We conclude that the encounter of philosophy and psychiatry in matters of causality and motivation could be particularly fruitful when the practical situation is addressed, recognizing the special character of psychopathology. (shrink)
The relation of teleological to causal explanations in psychology is examined. Nagel's claim that they are logically equivalent is rejected. Two arguments for their non-equivalence are considered: (i) the impossibility of specifying initial conditions in the case of teleological explanations and (ii) the claim that different kinds of logic are involved. The view that causal explanations provide only necessary conditions whereas teleological explanations provide sufficient conditions is rejected: causal explanations can provide sufficient conditions, typically being unable to (...) provide necessary ones, whereas teleological explanations tend to point to necessary features. Nor is a distinction in terms of intensional and extensional logic entirely satisfactory, although there is some support for the view that teleological and causal explanations invoke different types of explanatory framework. A key feature of teleogical explanation is the achievement of the same goal by a variety of means. Thus its main scientific function is likely to be heuristic rather than predictive. (shrink)
Explanation is usually taken to be a relation between certain entities. The aim of this paper is to discuss what entities are suitable as explanatory relata of singular causal explanations, i.e., explanations concerning singular causality relating particular events or other appropriate entities. I outline three different positions. The purely causal approach stipulates that the same entities that are related in the singular causal relation are also linked by the explanatory relation. This position, however, has a problem (...) to distinguish between causation and explanation, two distinct relations allegedly obtaining between the same entities. The linguistic approach states that explanatory relata are linguistic entities of some sort, e.g., statements, propositions, etc. There are various versions of this position. I deal with two of them and try to show that they are unsatisfactory because they transform explanation into some other type of relation. On the first version, explanation is very close to interpretation or clarification of intension and on the second version it seems to be indistinguishable from an evidential relation or justification. I consider these transformations in understanding explanation unnecessary, and consequently reject linguistic views of explanatory relata. The most promising proposal concerning explanatory relata seems to be the mixed view, according to which propositions explain events or other fitting extra-linguistic entities. (shrink)
Causalists about explanation claim that to explain an event is to provide information about the causal history of that event. Some causalists also endorse a proportionality claim, namely that one explanation is better than another insofar as it provides a greater amount of causal information. In this chapter I consider various challenges to these causalist claims. There is a common and influential formulation of the causalist requirement – the ‘Causal Process Requirement’ – that does appear (...) vulnerable to these anti-causalist challenges, but I argue that they do not give us reason to reject causalism entirely. Instead, these challenges lead us to articulate the causalist requirement in an alternative way. This alternative articulation incorporates some of the important anti-causalist insights without abandoning the explanatory necessity of causal information. For example, proponents of the ‘equilibrium challenge’ argue that the best available explanations of the behaviour of certain dynamical systems do not appear to provide any causal information. I respond that, contrary to appearances, these equilibrium explanations are fundamentally causal, and I provide a formulation of the causalist thesis that is immune to the equilibrium challenge. I then show how this formulation is also immune to the ‘epistemic challenge’ – thus vindicating (a properly formulated version of) the causalist thesis. (shrink)
To give a causalexplanation is to give information about causal history. But a vast amount of causal history lies behind anything that happens, far too much to be included in any intelligible explanation. This is the Problem of Limitation for explanatory information. To cope with this problem, explanations must select for what is relevant to and adequate for answering particular inquiries. In the present paper this idea is used in order to distinguish two kinds (...) of causalexplanation, on the grounds of systematic differences in their conditions of relevance and adequacy. It is further argued that these two forms of causalexplanation are interdependent and their interaction provides an instrument through which causal knowledge is acquired and enhanced. What we understand causation in the world to be is neither unconditioned regularity, nor counterfactual dependence, but the sum of correct answers to explanatory inquiries of these two interdependent kinds. (shrink)
I argue that psychologists interested in human causal judgment should understand and adopt a representation of causal mechanisms by directed graphs that encode conditional independence (screening off) relations. I illustrate the benefits of that representation, now widely used in computer science and increasingly in statistics, by (i) showing that a dispute in psychology between ‘mechanist’ and ‘associationist’ psychological theories of causation rests on a false and confused dichotomy; (ii) showing that a recent, much-cited experiment, purporting to show that (...) human subjects, incorrectly let large causes ‘overshadow’ small causes, misrepresents the most likely, and warranted, causalexplanation available to the subjects, in the light of which their responses were normative; (iii) showing how a recent psychological theory (due to P. Cheng) of human judgment of causal power can be considerably generalized: and (iv) suggesting a range of possible experiments comparing human and computer abilities to extract causal information from associations. (shrink)
How regular do mechanisms need to be, in order to count as mechanisms? This paper addresses two arguments for dropping the requirement of regularity from the definition of a mechanism, one motivated by examples from the sciences and the other motivated by metaphysical considerations regarding causation. I defend a broadened regularity requirement on mechanisms that takes the form of a taxonomy of kinds of regularity that mechanisms may exhibit. This taxonomy allows precise explication of the degree and location of regular (...) operation within a mechanism, and highlights the role that various kinds of regularity play in scientific explanation. I defend this regularity requirement in terms of regularity’s role in individuating mechanisms against a background of other causal processes, and by prioritizing mechanisms’ ability to serve as a model of scientific explanation, rather than as a metaphysical account of causation. It is because mechanisms are regular, in the expanded sense described here, that they are capable of supporting the kinds of generalizations that figure prominently in scientific explanations. (shrink)
Woodward's long awaited book is an attempt to construct a comprehensive account of causation explanation that applies to a wide variety of causal and explanatory claims in different areas of science and everyday life. The book engages some of the relevant literature from other disciplines, as Woodward weaves together examples, counterexamples, criticisms, defenses, objections, and replies into a convincing defense of the core of his theory, which is that we can analyze causation by appeal to the notion of (...) manipulation. (shrink)
We develop an account of laboratory models, which have been central to the group selection controversy. We compare arguments for group selection in nature with Darwin's arguments for natural selection to argue that laboratory models provide important grounds for causal claims about selection. Biologists get information about causes and cause-effect relationships in the laboratory because of the special role their own causal agency plays there. They can also get information about patterns of effects and antecedent conditions in nature. (...) But to argue that some cause is actually responsible in nature, they require an inference from knowledge of causes in the laboratory context and of effects in the natural context. This process, cause detection, forms the core of an analogical argument for group selection. We discuss the differing roles of mathematical and laboratory models in constructing selective explanations at the group level and apply our discussion to the units of selection controversy to distinguish between the related problems of cause determination and evaluation of evidence. Because laboratory models are at the intersection of the two problems, their study is crucial for framing a coherent theory of explanation for evolutionary biology. (shrink)
It is widely believed that many of the competing accounts of scientific explanation have ramifications which are relevant to the scientific realism debate. I claim that the two issues are orthogonal. For definiteness, I consider Cartwright's argument that causal explanations secure belief in theoretical entities. In Section I, van Fraassen's anti-realism is reviewed; I argue that this anti-realism is, prima facie, consistent with a causal account of explanation. Section II reviews Cartwright's arguments. In Section III, it (...) is argued that causal explanations do not license the sort of inferences to theoretical entities that would embarass the anti-realist. Section IV examines the epistemic commitments involved in accepting a causalexplanation. Section V presents my conclusions: contra Cartwright, the anti-realist may incorporate a causal account of explanation into his vision of science in an entirely natural way. (shrink)
Causalexplanation proceeds by citing the causes of the explanandum. Any model of causalexplanation requires a specification of the relation between cause and effect in virtue of which citing the cause explains the effect. In particular, it requires a specification of what it is for the explanandum to be causally dependent on the explanans and what types of things (broadly understood) the explanans are. There have been a number of such models. For the benefit of (...) the unfamiliar reader, here is a brief statement of some major views. On David Lewis’s account, c causally explains e if c is connected to e with a network of causal chains. For him, causalexplanation consists in presenting portions of explanatory information captured by the causal network. On Wesley Salmon’s reading, c causally explains e if c is connected with e by a suitable continuous causal (i.e., capable of transmitting a mark) process. On the standard deductive-nomological reading of causalexplanation, for c to causally explain e, c must be a nomologically sufficient condition for e. And for John Mackie, for c to causally explain e there must be event-types C and E such that C is an inus-condition for E.53 In a series of papers and a book, James Woodward (1997, 2000, 2002, 2003a, 2003b) has put forward a ‘manipulationist’ account of causalexplanation. Briefly put, c causally explains e if e causally depends on c, where the notion of causal dependence is understood in terms of relevant (interventionist) counterfactual, that is counterfactuals that describe the outcomes of interventions. A bit more accurately, c causally explains e if, were c to be (actually or counterfactually) manipulated, e would change too. This model ties causalexplanation to actual and counterfactual experiments that show how manipulation of factors mentioned in the explanans would alter the explanandum. It also stresses the role of invariant relationships, as opposed to strict laws, in causalexplanation. Explanation in this model consists in answering a network of “what-if-things-had-been-different questions”, thereby placing the explanandum within a pattern of counterfactual dependencies (cf. Woodward 2003a, p.. (shrink)
Good explanations are not only true or probably true, but are also relevant to a causal question. Current models of causalexplanation either only address the question of the truth of an explanation, or do not distinguish the probability of an explanation from its relevance. The tasks of scenario construction and conversational explanation are distinguished, which in turn shows how scenarios can interact with conversational principles to determine the truth and relevance of explanations. The (...) proposed model distinguishes causal discounting from causal backgrounding , and makes predictions concerning the differential effects of contextual information about alternative explanations on: (a) the kind of mental models constructed; (b) belief revision about probable cause; and (c) the perceived quality of a focal explanation. Four experiments are reported that test these predictions. The significance of the notion of explanatory relevance for research on causalexplanation is then discussed. (shrink)
If physical reality is nonseparable, as quantum mechanics suggests, then it may contain processes of a quite novel kind. Such nonseparable processes could connect space-like separated events without violating relativity theory or any defensible locality condition. Appeal to nonseparable processes could ground theoretical explanations of such otherwise puzzling phenomena as the two-slit experiment, and EPR- type correlations. We find such phenomena puzzling because they threaten cherished conceptions of how causes operate to produce their effects. But nonseparable processes offer us an (...) alternative deal of natural order, conformity to which makes such phenomena seem quite normal and not at all unexpected. Attempts to answer the further question, as to whether an appeal to a nonseparable process provides a genuine "causal" explanation, have something to teach us about our concept of causation, but do not threaten to undermine the value of the explanation itself. (shrink)
It is a well known fact that a common common causalexplanation of the EPR scenario which consists in providing a local, non-conspiratorial common common cause system for a set of EPR correlations is excluded by various Bell inequalities. But what if we replace the assumption of a common common cause system by the requirement that each correlation of the set has a local, non-conspiratorial separate common cause system? In the paper we show that this move does not (...) yield a solution by providing a general recipe how to derive any Bell(δ) inequality—that is an inequality differing from some Bell inequality in a term of order of δ—from the assumption that an appropriate set of almost perfect anticorrelations has a separate common causalexplanation. (shrink)
Three-valued (strong-Kleene) modal logic provides the foundation for a new approach to formalizing causalexplanation as a relation between partial situations. The approach makes fine-grained distinctions between aspects of events, even between aspects that are equivalent in classical logic. The framework can accommodate a variety of ontologies concerning the relata of causalexplanation. I argue, however, for a tripartite ontology of objects corresponding to sentential nominals: facts, tropes (or facta or states of affairs), and situations (or (...) events). I axiomatize the relations and use canonical models to demonstrate completeness. (shrink)
This paper is an attempt to exhibit the contrast between the primitive notion of causality, simply as efficacy, and the restricted meaning of the expression "causalexplanation" as associated with the application of a methodology of causal "inquiry". there can be differences of opinion on whether or not a single general methodology of causal inquiry is appropriate for natural phenomena and for human intentional actions. philosophers who reject a "methodology" of causalexplanation for intentional (...) actions are not rejecting causality. the basic primitive experience of causal efficacy, of power exerted and received, is inescapable. a little attention to the phenomenology of experience can bring this out. (shrink)
It seems plausible to suppose that (a) the vocabulary of action is distinct from and irreducible to that of mere movement, And (b) the causal laws of the natural sciences are couched solely in terms of the latter vocabulary. From these two suppositions, The falsehood of determinism has sometimes been said to follow. I argue that whether this does follow depends on our conception of causalexplanation; on the interpretation of this concept that seems to me the (...) most interesting, The falsehood of determinism follows only given the supplementary premise that there are no correlations between the relevant movement-Descriptions and action-Descriptions. But those who propose the two-Vocabularies argument have not shown the impossibility of establishing these correlations, And so have not proven determinism false. (shrink)
In this paper, we present an approach to commonsense causalexplanation of stories that can be used for automatically determining the liable party in legal case descriptions. The approach is based on , a core ontology for law that takes a commonsense perspective. Aside from our thesis that in the legal domain many terms still have a strong commonsense flavour, the descriptions of events in legal cases, as e.g. presented at judicial trials, are cast in commonsense terms as (...) well. We present design principles for representing commonsense causation, and describe a process-based approach to automatic identification of causal relations in stories, which are described in terms of the core ontology. The resulting causalexplanation forms a necessary condition for determining the liability and responsibility of agents that play a role in the case. We describe the basic architecture and working of , the demonstrator we are constructing to test the validity of our process oriented view on commonsense causation. This view holds that causal relations are in fact abstractions constructed on the basis of our commonsense understanding of physical and mental processes. (shrink)
D. Miller's demonstrations of the language dependence of truthlikeness raise a profound problem for the claim that scientific progress is objective. In two recent papers (Barnes 1990, 1991) I argue that the objectivity of progress may be grounded on the claim that the aim of science is not merely truth but knowledge; progress thus construed is objective in an epistemic sense. In this paper I construct a new solution to Miller's problem grounded on the notion of "approximate causal (...) class='Hi'>explanation" which allows for linguistically invariant progress outside an epistemic context. I suggest that the notion of "approximate causalexplanation" provides the resources for a more robust theory of progress than that provided by the notion of "approximate truth.". (shrink)
Abstract The thesis that teleological explanations are best understood as causal explanations is defended (contra Valentine). I shift the focus of debate from behavior simpliciter to allegedly rational behavior. Teleological explanation, in the case of rational agents, involves reason?giving; and the reasons agents give for acting must be causative of that action if those agents are to be rational in practice. I argue initially that to abandon the claim that reasons are causes of action is to abandon that (...) which renders many generalisations of systematic human behavior intelligible. I then adduce and defend against two major objections to the secondary thesis that reasons can be causes of action: (1) Experiments in attribution research suggest that agents are characteristically mistaken when reporting on the causes of their behavior; (2) Causalexplanation must refer to some law, and reasons cannot enter into such laws as causes of action. In responding to these objections, I note that strict predictability is probably not a reliable indicator of genuine causalexplanation; some explanations will afford predictions, others will not. (shrink)
This paper characterizes the role of the experimenter in causal explanations of laboratory phenomena. Causalexplanation rests on appeals to the experimenter's efficacy as a causal agent. I contrast "demographic" and "genetic" explanations of stochastic outcomes in a set of competition experiments in ecology. The demographic view ascribes causes to the experimenter's agency in setting up the experiment and to events within the experimental set-up. The genetic view ascribes causes to an unrecognized effect of the experimenter's (...) sampling process prior to the experimental set-up. (shrink)
Salmón ha afirmado que su teoría de la explicación causal no es enteramente adecuada para el dominio cuántico debido a ciertas anomalías causales como el dualismo onda/partícula y, especialmente, a las correlaciones estadísticas que surgen de experimentos tipo EPR. En este escrito se analizan las nociones causales de Salmón, en las cuales se basa su teoría probabilista de la explicación, con el fin de delimitar su alcance en ese dominio mostrando que sólo abarca procesos de transición pero no procesos (...) de transmutación. Además, se propone, a muy grandes rasgos, una noción alternativa de causalidad indeterminista que pretende ser adecuada para ciertos procesos cuánticos como procesos estocásticos. Por último se arguye que si bien la explicación de las correlaciones cuánticas es un problema abierto, sería erróneo considerar que una teoría de la explicación causal, como la de Salmón, concebida y elaborada primordialmente para procesos físicos individuales, pueda y deba dar cuenta de tales correlaciones. /// Salmon has said that his theory of causalexplanation is not fully adequate for the quantum domain because of certain causal anomalies such as the wave/particle dualism and, in particular, the statistical correlations which arise from EPR-type experiments. This paper analyzes Salmon's causal notions, on which his probabilistic theory of explanation is based, in order to delimit its scope within that domain by showing that it covers only transition processes but not processes of transmutation. Beside, I propose, very roughly, an alternative notion of indeterministic causality, intended to be adequate for certain quantum processes as stochastic processes. Finally, I also argue that, while the explanation of the quantum correlations is an open problem, is would be a mistake to think that a theory of causalexplanation, like Salmon's, conceived and worked out primarily for individual physical processes, could and should account for such correlations. (shrink)
It is observed that in ordinary everyday causal explanations often just one causal factor is mentioned. One causal factor carries the explanatory burden, even if there are several causal factors that are responsible for the event to be explained. This paper deals with the question of how to account for this explanatory selection. I argue for a pragmatic stance towards explanation, that we must attend to the question–answer situation as a whole and the context of (...) the explanation. The context of an explanation includes the inquirer's and the explainer's beliefs and presuppositions relevant for the explanation-seeking question, and these are encoded in a reference class. Furthermore I argue that the explanation-giving answer contains an implicit counterfactual claim, the explanation-giving counterfactual. The solution to the problem of explanatory selection is to be found in the presuppositions encoded by the reference class and the eg-counterfactual. In short we select as explanatory that factor which, together with the presupposition encoded in the reference class we believe will make the eg-counterfactual true. (shrink)
Semantic properties are not commonly held to be part of the basic ontological furniture of the world. Consequently, we confront a problem: how to 'naturalize' semantics so as to reveal these properties in their true ontological colors? Dominant naturalistic theories address semantic properties as properties of some other (more primitive, less problematic) kind. The reductionistic flavor is unmistakable. The following quote from Fodor's Psychosemantics is probably the contemporary locus classicus of this trend. Fodor is commendably unapologetic: "I suppose that sooner (...) or later the physicists will complete the catalogue they've been compiling of the ultimate and irreducible properties of things. When they do, the likes of spin, charm, and charge will perhaps appear upon their list. But aboutness surely won't; intentionality simply doesn't go that deep. It's hard to see, in the face of this consideration, how one can be a Realist about intentionality without also being, to some extent or other, a Reductionist. If the semantic and the intentional are real properties of things, it must be in virtue of their identity with (or maybe of their supervenience on?) properties that are themselves neither intentional nor semantic. If aboutness is real, it must be really something else." (Fodor 1987, 97) Notice the shape of this explanatory project. Intentional properties will count as real in virtue of their identity with, or supervenience on, some set of lower-level physical properties. Fodor thus assumes, in effect (as do many others engaged in naturalization projects for semantics), that the program of naturalization demands a higher-to-lower, top-to-bottom, kind of explanatory strategy. This paper addresses precisely that assumption, namely, that the non-semantic properties on which semantic properties depend, belong to what are intuitively lower levels of description than the intentional level itself. It also questions the higher-to-lower explanatory scheme associated with that assumption. My discussion of this topic draws on Robert Brandom's recent work (Brandom 1994) and can be considered an analysis of Brandom's stance and its implications. The discussion should help to explain the general lack of progress in the project of naturalizing content. It should also help show why attempts to eliminate the normative vocabulary employed in specifying the practices that guide the use of a language are unlikely to succeed. I shall start by displaying the general order of explanation that characterizes typical naturalization projects, showing that even when a full reduction to physics is avoided, some important assumptions inherited from the explanatory model of physics remain. These include the demand for an array of causal explanations couched in terms of ultimate properties of the world, and the idea that such non-semantic properties should be constitutive (in a narrow or individualistic sense to be explained below) of whatever semantic properties are in question. Extending Brandom's idea that the normativity of content is not reducible to physics, I shall argue that even such residual demands are inappropriate. More positively, I suggest that, despite the deep irreducibility of the normative dimension of content, we need not consider that dimension either primitive or inexplicable. Instead, such normative aspects can be unpacked by invoking a different, lower-to-higher, explanatory scheme in which the explanans includes higher level features such as skilled know-how and social frames of action. (shrink)
Instances of negative causation—preventions, omissions, and the like—have long created philosophical worries. In this paper, I argue that concerns about negative causation can be addressed in the context of causalexplanation generally, and mechanistic explanation specifically. The gravest concern about negative causation is that it exacerbates the problem of causal promiscuity—that is, the problem that arises when a particular account of causation identifies too many causes for a particular effect. In the explanatory context, the problem of (...) promiscuity can be solved by characterizing the phenomenon to be explained as a contrast between two or more events or non-events. This contrastive strategy also can solve other problems that negative causation presents for the leading accounts of mechanistic explanation. Along the way, I argue that to be effective, accounts of causalexplanation must incorporate negative causation. I also develop a taxonomy of negative causation and incorporate each variety of negative causation into the leading accounts of mechanistic explanation. (shrink)
Recent work on the interpretation of counterfactual conditionals has paid much attention to the role of causal independencies. One influential idea from the theory of Causal Bayesian Networks is that counterfactual assumptions are made by intervention on variables, leaving all of their causal non-descendants unaffected. But intervention is not applicable across the board. For instance, backtracking counterfactuals, which involve reasoning from effects to causes, cannot proceed by intervention in the strict sense, for otherwise they would be equivalent (...) to their consequents. We discuss these and similar cases, focusing on two factors which play a role in determining whether and which causal parents of the manipulated variable are affected: Speakers' need for an explanation of the hypothesized state of affairs, and differences in the ‘resilience’ of beliefs that are independent of degrees of certainty. We describe the relevant theoretical notions in some detail and provide experimental evidence that these factors do indeed affect speakers' interpretation of counterfactuals. (shrink)
Philosophical ideas about the mind, brain, and behavior can seem theoretical and unimportant when placed alongside the urgent questions of mental distress and disorder. However, there is a need to give direction to attempts to answer these questions. On the one hand, a substantial research effort is going into the investigation of brain processes and the development of drug treatments for psychiatric disorders, and on the other, a wide range of psychotherapies is becoming available to adults and children with mental (...) health problems. These two strands reflect traditional distinctions between mind and body, and causal as opposed to meaningful explanations of behavior. In this book, which has been written for psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers, and others in related fields, the authors propose a radical re-interpretation of these traditional distinctions. Throughout the discussions philosophical theories are brought to bear on the particular questions of the explanation of behaviors, the nature of mental causation, and eventually the origins of major disorders including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and personality disorder. (shrink)
Michael Strevens offers an account of causalexplanation according to which explanatory practice is shaped by counterbalanced commitments to representing causal influence and abstracting away from overly specific details. In this paper, I challenge a key feature of that account. I argue that what Strevens calls explanatory frameworks figure prominently in explanatory practice because they actually improve explanations. This suggestion is simple but has far-reaching implications. It affects the status of explanations that cite multiply realizable properties; changes (...) the explanatory role of causal factors with small effect; and undermines Strevens’ titular explanatory virtue, depth. This results in greater coherence with explanatory practice and accords with the emphasis that Strevens places on explanatory patterns. Ultimately, my suggestion preserves a tight connection between explanation and the creation of understanding by taking into account explanations’ role in communication. (shrink)
This paper defends my claim in earlier work that certain non-causal conditions are sufficient for the truth of some reasons explanations of actions, against the critique of this claim given by Randolph Clarke in his book, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will.
The interventionist account of causalexplanation, in the version presented by Jim Woodward (2003), has been recently claimed capable of buttressing the widely felt—though poorly understood—hunch that high-level, relatively abstract explanations, of the sort provided by sciences like biology, psychology and economics, are in some cases explanatorily optimal. It is the aim of this paper to show that this is mistaken. Due to a lack of effective constraints on the causal variables at the heart of the interventionist (...)causal-explanatory scheme, as presently formulated it is either unable to prefer high-level explanations to low, or systematically overshoots, recommending explanations at so high of a level as to be virtually vacuous. (shrink)
Probabilistic phenomena are often perceived as being problematic targets for contrastive explanation. It is usually thought that the possibility of contrastive explanation hinges on whether or not the probabilistic behaviour is irreducibly indeterministic, and that the possible remaining contrastive explananda are token event probabilities or complete probability distributions over such token outcomes. This paper uses the invariance-under-interventions account of contrastive explanation to argue against both ideas. First, the problem of contrastive explanation also arises in cases in (...) which the probabilistic behaviour of the explanandum is due to unobserved causal heterogeneity. Second, it turns out that, in contrast to the case of pure indeterminism, the plausible contrastive explananda under causal heterogeneity are not token event probabilities, but population-level statistical facts. (shrink)
In the following we consider the possibility of interpretating recent non-local interferometric experiments according to the De Broglie causal model. With the help of a simplified mathematical model based on wavelet analysis it is indeed possible to explain it in a causal way. Furthermore we show the distinctions between the two formalisms and discuss some experimental conditions that may make these differences evident.
This paper defends a unificationist theory of explanation. I first explore the notion of understanding entrenched by the unificationist. Then I present an overview of various kinds of causal statements and explanations. It is claimed that only genuine causal law statements have explanatory power. Finally, I attempt to fit causal explanations into the unificationist theory of explanation. In this way, I try to provide an account of how causal explanations provide understanding of the phenomena (...) that they explain. (shrink)
It is argued that dispositional explanations are radically incomplete causal explanations that are employed when (1) a description of the stimuli is insufficient to account for the object's response and (2) not enough is known about the object to specify what its specific causal contribution is. ryle's failure to refer to the causal contribution of the organism in his account of dispositions is regarded as a serious weakness.
It is widely held that belief explanations of action are a species of causalexplanation. This paper argues against the causal construal of action explanation. It first defends the claim that unless beliefs are brain states, beliefs cannot causally explain behavior. Second, the paper argues against the view that beliefs are brain states. It follows from these claims that beliefs do not causally explain behavior. An alternative account is then proposed, according to which action explanation (...) is teleological rather than causal, and the paper closes by suggesting that teleological account makes sense of and supports the autonomy of common sense psychology. (shrink)
We typically explain human action teleologically, by citing the action's goal or purpose. However, a broad class of naturalistic projects within the philosophy of mind presuppose that teleological explanation is reducible to causalexplanation. In this paper I argue that two recently suggested strategies - one suggested by Al Mele and the other proposed by John Bishop and Christopher Peacocke - fail to provide a successful causal analysis of teleological explanation. The persistent troubles encountered by (...) the reductive project suggest that teleological explanations are irreducible and that the naturalistic accounts of mind and agency should be called into question. (shrink)
It is widely assumed that common sense psychological explanations of human action are a species of causalexplanation. I argue against this construal, drawing on Ramsey et al.'s paper, “Connectionism, eliminativism, and the future of folk psychology”. I argue that if certain connec-tionist models are correct, then mental states cannot be identified with functionally discrete causes of behavior, and I respond to some recent attempts to deny this claim. However, I further contend that our common sense psychological practices (...) are not committed to the falsity of such connectionist models. The paper concludes that common sense psychology is not committed to the identification of mental states with functionally discrete causes of behavior, and hence that common sense psychology is not committed to the causal account of action explanation. (shrink)
Many cosmological arguments for the existence of a first cause or a necessary being rely on a premise which denies the possibility of an infinite regress ofsome particular sort. Adequate and satisfying support for this premise, however, is not always provided. In this paper I attempt to address this gap in the literature. After discussing the notion of a causalexplanation (section I), I formulate three principles which govern any successful causalexplanation (section II). I then (...) introduce the notions of a caused being, a causal network, and a causal chain, and argue that (roughly) an infinite causal chain cannot be explained merely by reference to the causal activities of the members of that chain (section III). In a sequel to the present paper, I employ this result to construct two closely related arguments for the existence of a necessary being. (shrink)
This article defends the use of interventionist counterfactuals to elucidate causal and explanatory claims against criticisms advanced by James Bogen and Peter Machamer. Against Bogen, I argue that counterfactual claims concerning what would happen under interventions are meaningful and have determinate truth values, even in a deterministic world. I also argue, against both Machamer and Bogen, that we need to appeal to counterfactuals to capture the notions like causal relevance and causal mechanism. Contrary to what both authors (...) suppose, counterfactuals are not "unscientific" - a substantial tradition within statistics and the causal modelling literature makes heavy use of them. (shrink)
The business of Selective Realism, is to distinguish the denoting terms from the nondenoting terms in our best scientific theories. This is no easy matter, and despite agreement amongst many philosophers of science that at least some of our scientific vocabulary denotes and some does not, there is very little agreement about how the demarcation in question is to be affected.1 One strategy that enjoys fairly widespread support, however, is the appeal to a causal test.2 According to this view, (...) the only terms that are taken to denote are those concerning causally active entities. Such an approach rules against the existence of abstracta but maintains realism about theoretical entities such as electrons and the like. In this paper I will consider one important defence of such a test due to David Armstrong. I argue that this defence fails because of its reliance on the assumption that only causally active entities can have explanatory power.. (shrink)
Alan Garfinkel (1981) and Bas van Fraassen (1980), among others, have proposed a contrastive theory of explanation, according to which the proper form of an explanatory why-question is not simply "Why P?" but "Why P rather than Q?". Dennis Temple (1988) has argued in this journal that the contrastive explanandum "P rather than Q" is equivalent to the conjunction, "P and not-Q". I show that the contrast is not equivalent to the conjunction, nor to other plausible noncontrastive candidates. I (...) then consider David Lewis's (1986) proposal for the way contrasts determine an explanatory cause, which does not require recasting the contrastive explanandum. Lewis's proposal is found to be unacceptable, but it suggests an improvement that shows contrastive explanations to employ a mechanism of "causal triangulation", similar to Mill's method of difference. (shrink)
I. There are two points of view: ___ From the personal point of view, an action is a person's doing something for a reason, and her doing it is found intelligible when we know the reason that led her to it. ___ From the impersonal point of view, an action would be a link in a causal chain that could be viewed without paying any attention to people, the links being understood by reference to the world's causal workings.
The two major modern accounts of explanation are the causal and unification accounts. My aim in this paper is to provide a kind of unification of the causal and the unification accounts, by using the central technical apparatus of the unification account to solve a central problem faced by the causal account, namely, the problem of determining which parts of a causal network are explanatorily relevant to the occurrence of an explanandum. The end product of (...) my investigation is a causal account of explanation that has many of the advantages of the unification account. (shrink)
There is more than one explanation for the evolution of sexual reproduction. This paper investigates the possibility that this pluralism exists because these different explanations rely on intuitions provided by different philosophical theories of explanation, namely unifying views and causal mechanical views. I conclude that this is not the case.
Causal modeling methods such as path analysis, used in the social and natural sciences, are also highly relevant to philosophical problems of probabilistic causation and statistical explanation. We show how these methods can be effectively used (1) to improve and extend Salmon's S-R basis for statistical explanation, and (2) to repair Cartwright's resolution of Simpson's paradox, clarifying the relationship between statistical and causal claims.