This is the first instalment of a two-part paper on the counterfactual theory of causation. It is well known that this theory is ridden with counterexamples. Specifically, the following four features of the theory suffer from problems: it understands causation as a relation between events; counterfactual dependence is understood using a metric of similarity among possible worlds; it defines a non-discriminatory concept of causation; and it understands causation as transitive. A number of philosophers have recently proposed that causation is contrastive (...) because making contrasts explicit defuses counterexamples. A contrastive causal claim has the following form: C rather than C* causes E rather than E*, where C* and E* are alternative or contrast events. In this paper, I show that making contrasts explicit does indeed defuse some counterexamples. However, I also argue that the examples discussed in the literature all share a common feature, viz. that the original causal judgement is ambiguous in one way or another. Contrasting does not help with counterexamples that do not have this feature. Part II of this paper then takes up the hard cases. (shrink)
In recent years, a number of philosophers have attempted to fix paradoxes of the counterfactual account of causation by making causation contrastive. In this framework, causation is understood to be not a two-place relationship between a cause and an effect but a three or four-place relationship between a cause, an effect and a contrast on the side of the cause, the effect or both. I argue that contrasting helps resolving certain paradoxes only if an account of admissibility of the chosen (...) set of contrasts is given. I show by means of numerous examples that it is contextual features that determine admissibility. This way, context becomes part of the semantics of causation. I finally argue that once contextualised, explicit contrasting is redundant: causation is therefore a three-place relationship between a cause, an effect and a context. (shrink)
I respond to some challenges raised by my critics. In particular, I argue in favour of six claims. First, against Alexandrova and Northcott, I point out that to deny the explanatoriness of economic models by assuming an ontic (specifically, causal) conception of explanation is to beg the question. Second, against defences of causal realism (by Hausman, Mäki, Rol and Grüne-Yanoff) I point out that they have provided no criterion to distinguish those claims a model makes that can be interpreted realistically (...) (the model's ?causal content? or claims it makes about causal powers or mechanisms) and those the realist can safely ignore. Third, I point out that Hausman's and Rol's claims about robustness plus the empirical observation that economic models are hardly ever robust to the right kinds of specification changes imply that these models do not explain (which is problematic as my original article argued). Fourth, I point out that Sugden's response still leaves an important question unanswered, viz. what makes economic models explanatory. Fifth, I sketch an alternative, instrumentalist account of explanation and argue that it would fit Sugden's bill. Sixth, I point out that under this account of explanation, economic models would come out as non-explanatory, which brings us back to Alexandrova and Northcott's account and its associated difficulties. The ?explanation paradox?, therefore, remains unscathed. (shrink)
This paper aims (a) to provide characterizations of realism and instrumentalism that are philosophically interesting and applicable to economics; and (b) to defend instrumentalism against realism as a methodological stance in economics. Starting point is the observation that , which, or so I argue, is difficult to square with the realist's aim of truth, even if the latter is understood as or . The three cheers in favour of instrumentalism are: (1) Once we have usefulness, truth is redundant. (2) There (...) is something disturbing about causal structure. (3) It's better to do what one can than to chase rainbows. (shrink)
This paper examines mathematical models in economics and observes that three mutually inconsistent hypotheses concerning models and explanation are widely held: (1) economic models are false; (2) economic models are nevertheless explanatory; and (3) only true accounts explain. Commentators have typically resolved the paradox by rejecting either one of these hypotheses. I will argue that none of the proposed resolutions work and conclude that therefore the paradox is genuine and likely to stay.
One way to make philosophy of science more socially relevant is to attend to specific scientific practises that affect society to a great extent. One such practise is biomedical research. This paper looks at contemporary U.S. biomedical research in particular and argues that it suffers from important epistemic, moral and socioeconomic failings. It then discusses and criticises existing approaches to improve on the status quo, most prominently by Thomas Pogge (a political philosopher), Joseph Stiglitz (a Nobel-prize winning economist) and James (...) Robert Brown (a philosopher of science). Finally, it sketches an alternative proposal and argues for its superiority. The proposal has four components: changing the intellectual property regime; instituting independent clinical research; aligning innovators' and patients' interests; and enacting additional regulation. (shrink)
In this paper we make a proposal for reforming biomedical research that is aimed to align re-search more closely with the so-called fair-share principle according to which the proportions of global resources as-signed to different diseases should agree with the ratios of human suffering associated with those diseases.
Computer simulations are an exciting tool that plays important roles in many scientific disciplines. This has attracted the attention of a number of philosophers of science. The main tenor in this literature is that computer simulations not only constitute interesting and powerful new science , but that they also raise a host of new philosophical issues. The protagonists in this debate claim no less than that simulations call into question our philosophical understanding of scientific ontology, the epistemology and semantics of (...) models and theories, and the relation between experimentation and theorising, and submit that simulations demand a fundamentally new philosophy of science in many respects. The aim of this paper is to critically evaluate these claims. Our conclusion will be sober. We argue that these claims are overblown and that simulations, far from demanding a new metaphysics, epistemology, semantics and methodology, raise few if any new philosophical problems. The philosophical problems that do come up in connection with simulations are not specific to simulations and most of them are variants of problems that have been discussed in other contexts before. (shrink)
All univocal analyses of causation face counterexamples. An attractive response to this situation is to become a pluralist about causal relationships. "Causal pluralism" is itself, however, a pluralistic notion. In this article, I argue in favor of pluralism about concepts of cause in the social sciences. The article will show that evidence for, inference from, and the purpose of causal claims are very closely linked. Key Words: causation • pluralism • evidence • methodology.
Thought experiments are ubiquitous in science and especially prominent in domains in which experimental and observational evidence is scarce. One such domain is the causal analysis of singular events in history. A long‐standing tradition that goes back to Max Weber addresses the issue by means of ‘what‐if’ counterfactuals. In this paper I give a descriptive account of this widely used method and argue that historians following it examine difference makers rather than causes in the philosopher’s sense. While difference making is (...) neither necessary nor sufficient for causation, to establish difference makers is more consistent with the historians’ more ultimate purposes. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Erasmus University, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
A recent movement in the social sciences and philosophy of the social sciences focuses on mechanisms as a central analytical unit. Starting from a pluralist perspective on the aims of the social sciences, I argue that there are a number of important aims to which knowledge about mechanismswhatever their virtues relative to other aimscontributes very little at best and that investigating mechanisms is therefore a methodological strategy with fairly limited applicability. Key Words: social science mechanisms explanation critical (...) realism methodology. (shrink)
This paper discusses and develops an important distinction drawn by Jevons, viz . that between natural and fictitious quantities. This distinction provides a basis for a theory of economic concept formation that aims at picking out families of models that are phenomenally adequate, explanatory and exact simultaneously. Essentially, the theory demands of an economic quantity to be natural that (1) it is explained by a causal model, (2) it is measurable and (3) the measurement procedure is justified. The proposed theory (...) is tested against two case studies, one historical and one contemporary. (shrink)