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Profile: Robert Northcott (University of Missouri St. Louis)
  1. Anna Alexandrova & Robert Northcott (2013). It's Just a Feeling: Why Economic Models Do Not Explain. Journal of Economic Methodology 20 (3):262 - 267.
    Julian Reiss correctly identified a trilemma about economic models: we cannot maintain that they are false, but nevertheless explain and that only true accounts explain. In this reply we give reasons to reject the second premise ? that economic models explain. Intuitions to the contrary should be distrusted.
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  2. Robert Northcott (2013). Degree of Explanation. Synthese 190 (15):3087-3105.
    Partial explanations are everywhere. That is, explanations citing causes that explain some but not all of an effect are ubiquitous across science, and these in turn rely on the notion of degree of explanation. I argue that current accounts are seriously deficient. In particular, they do not incorporate adequately the way in which a cause’s explanatory importance varies with choice of explanandum. Using influential recent contrastive theories, I develop quantitative definitions that remedy this lacuna, and relate it to existing measures (...)
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  3. Robert Northcott (2013). Verisimilitude: A Causal Approach. Synthese 190 (9):1471-1488.
    I present a new definition of verisimilitude, framed in terms of causes. Roughly speaking, according to it a scientific model is approximately true if it captures accurately the strengths of the causes present in any given situation. Against much of the literature, I argue that any satisfactory account of verisimilitude must inevitably restrict its judgments to context-specific models rather than general theories. We may still endorse—and only need—a relativized notion of scientific progress, understood now not as global advance but rather (...)
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  4. Robert Northcott (2012). Pmmmmmam. In Harold Kincaid (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science. Oxford University Press. 130.
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  5. Robert Northcott (2012). Partial Explanations in Social Science. In Harold Kincaid (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science. Oxford University Press. 130--153.
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  6. Robert Northcott (2010). Natural-Born Deterministe: A New Defense of Causation as Probability-Raising. Philosophical Studies 150 (1):1 - 20.
    A definition of causation as probability-raising is threatened by two kinds of counterexample: first, when a cause lowers the probability of its effect; and second, when the probability of an effect is raised by a non-cause. In this paper, I present an account that deals successfully with problem cases of both these kinds. In doing so, I also explore some novel implications of incorporating into the metaphysical investigation considerations of causal psychology.
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  7. Robert Northcott (2010). Walsh on Causes and Evolution. Philosophy of Science 77 (3):457-467.
    Denis Walsh has written a striking new defense in this journal of the statisticalist (i.e., noncausalist) position regarding the forces of evolution. I defend the causalist view against his new objections. I argue that the heart of the issue lies in the nature of nonadditive causation. Detailed consideration of that turns out to defuse Walsh’s ‘description‐dependence’ critique of causalism. Nevertheless, the critique does suggest a basis for reconciliation between the two competing views. *Received December 2009; revised December 2009. †To contact (...)
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  8. Anna Alexandrova & Robert Northcott (2009). Progress in Economics: Lessons From the Spectrum Auctions. In Harold Kincaid & Don Ross (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics. Oxford University Press. 306--337.
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  9. Robert Northcott (2009). Is Actual Difference Making Robert Northcott Actually Different? Journal of Philosophy 106 (11).
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  10. Robert Northcott (2009). Is Actual Difference Making Actually Different? Journal of Philosophy 106 (11):629-633.
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  11. Robert Northcott (2009). On Lewis, Schaffer and the Non-Reductive Evaluation of Counterfactuals. Theoria 75 (4):336-343.
    Jonathan Schaffer (2004 ) proposes an ingenious amendment to David Lewis's semantics for counterfactuals. This amendment explicitly invokes the notion of causal independence, thus giving up Lewis's ambitions for a reductive counterfactual account of causation. But in return, it rescues Lewis's semantics from extant counterexamples. I present a new counterexample that defeats even Schaffer's amendment. Further, I argue that a better approach would be to follow the causal modelling literature and evaluate counterfactuals via an explicit postulated causal structure. This alternative (...)
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  12. Robert Northcott (2008). Causation and Contrast Classes. Philosophical Studies 139 (1):111 - 123.
    I argue that causation is a contrastive relation: c-rather-than-C* causes e-rather-than-E*, where C* and E* are contrast classes associated respectively with actual events c and e. I explain why this is an improvement on the traditional binary view, and develop a detailed definition. It turns out that causation is only well defined in ‘uniform’ cases, where either all or none of the members of C* are related appropriately to members of E*.
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  13. Robert Northcott, Innateness and Science.
    Although a huge range of definitions has accumulated in the philosophy, biology and psychology literatures, no consensus has been reached on exactly what innateness amounts to. This has helped fuel an increasing skepticism, one that views the concept as anachronistic and actually harmful to science. Yet it remains central to many life sciences, and to several public policy issues too. So it is correspondingly urgent that its philosophical underpinnings be properly cleaned up. In this paper, I present a new approach (...)
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  14. Robert Northcott (2008). Weighted Explanations in History. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (1):76-96.
    , whereby some causes are deemed more important than others, are ubiquitous in historical studies. Drawing from influential recent work on causation, I develop a definition of causal-explanatory strength. This makes clear exactly which aspects of explanatory weighting are subjective and which objective. It also sheds new light on several traditional issues, showing for instance that: underlying causes need not be more important than proximate ones; several different causes can each be responsible for most of an effect; small causes need (...)
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  15. Robert Northcott (2006). Causal Efficacy and the Analysis of Variance. Biology and Philosophy 21 (2):253-276.
    The causal impacts of genes and environment on any one biological trait are inextricably entangled, and consequently it is widely accepted that it makes no sense in singleton cases to privilege either factor for particular credit. On the other hand, at a population level it may well be the case that one of the factors is responsible for more variation than the other. Standard methodological practice in biology uses the statistical technique of analysis of variance to measure this latter kind (...)
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  16. Robert Northcott (2005). Comparing Apples with Oranges. Analysis 65 (285):12–18.
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  17. Robert Northcott (2005). Pearson's Wrong Turning: Against Statistical Measures of Causal Efficacy. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):900-912.
    Standard statistical measures of strength of association, although pioneered by Pearson deliberately to be acausal, nowadays are routinely used to measure causal efficacy. But their acausal origins have left them ill suited to this latter purpose. I distinguish between two different conceptions of causal efficacy, and argue that: 1) Both conceptions can be useful 2) The statistical measures only attempt to capture the first of them 3) They are not fully successful even at this 4) An alternative definition more squarely (...)
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  18. Anna Alexandrova & Robert Northcott (2004). The Scientific Study of Society, by Max Steuer. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003, XIII + 464 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 20 (2):375-381.