Causation and Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
About this topic
Summary Many accounts of causation, i.e. theories that answer to the question when an event e can be said to have been caused by an event c, say that c-type events and e-type events have to be connected by a law of nature: a law that says that all C events are followed by E events. So, for example, saying that throwing this powder into this glass of water caused an explosion is, roughly, true only if it is a natural law that that kind of powder (magnesium, say) explodes when in contact with H2O. A contrary view says that causation is singular, i.e., whether two events are cause and effect, does not depend on the respective event kinds being related by a law.
Key works For the classic expression of the nomicity of causation see: Davidson 1995. For the locus classicus of the singularist account see: Ducasse 1966
Introductions Carroll 1994
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167 found
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1 — 50 / 167
  1. Causal Necessity and the Future: Two Views.Steven M. Duncan - manuscript
    In this paper I offer an alternative to the standard, mechanistic/fatalistic account of causal necessity, one compatible with the existence of laws of nature but not deterministic in the way this is usually understood.
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  2. Explaining Experience In Nature: The Foundations Of Logic And Apprehension.Steven Ericsson-Zenith - forthcoming - Institute for Advanced Science & Engineering.
    At its core this book is concerned with logic and computation with respect to the mathematical characterization of sentient biophysical structure and its behavior. -/- Three related theories are presented: The first of these provides an explanation of how sentient individuals come to be in the world. The second describes how these individuals operate. And the third proposes a method for reasoning about the behavior of individuals in groups. -/- These theories are based upon a new explanation of experience in (...)
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  3. The Case Against Powers.Walter Ott - forthcoming - In Stathis Psillos, Benjamin Hill & Henrik Lagerlund (eds.), Causal Powers in Science: Blending Historical and Conceptual Perspectives. Oxford University Press.
    Powers ontologies are currently enjoying a resurgence. This would be dispiriting news for the moderns; in their eyes, to imbue bodies with powers is to slide back into the scholastic slime from which they helped philosophy crawl. I focus on Descartes’s ‘little souls’ argument, which points to a genuine and, I think persisting, defect in powers theories. The problem is that an Aristotelian power is intrinsic to whatever has it. Once this move is accepted, it becomes very hard to see (...)
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  4. Law-Abiding Causal Decision Theory.Timothy Luke Williamson & Alexander Sandgren - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    In this paper we discuss how Causal Decision Theory should be modified to handle a class of problematic cases involving deterministic laws. Causal Decision Theory, as it stands, is problematically biased against your endorsing deterministic propositions (for example it tells you to deny Newtonian physics, regardless of how confident you are of its truth). Our response is that this is not a problem for Causal Decision Theory per se, but arises because of the standard method for assessing the truth of (...)
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  5. Dispositionalism and the Metaphysics of Science.Travis Dumsday - 2019 - Cambridge University Press.
    Dispositionalism is the view that causal powers are among the irreducible properties of nature. It has long been among the core competing positions in the metaphysics of laws, but its potential implications for other key debates within metaphysics and the philosophy of science have remained under-explored. Travis Dumsday fills this major gap in the literature by establishing new connections between dispositionalism and such topics as substance ontology, ontic structural realism, material composition, emergentism, natural-kind essentialism, perdurantism, time travel, and spacetime substantivalism. (...)
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  6. Vacuum Genesis oraz spontaniczne powstanie wszechświata z niczego a klasyczna koncepcja przyczynowości oraz stworzenia ex nihilo.Mariusz Tabaczek - 2019 - Scientia et Fides 7 (1):127-162.
    Vacuum Genesis and Spontaneous Emergence of the Universe from Nothing in Reference to the Classical Notion of Causality and Creation ex nihilo The article discousses philosophical and theological reflections inspired by the cosmological model of the origin of the universe from quantum vacuum through quantum tunneling and the model presented by Hartle and Hawking. In the context of the thesis about the possibility of cosmogenesis ex nihilo without the need of God the creator, the question is being raised concerning the (...)
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  7. What Laws? Which Past?: Meillassoux’s Hyper-Chaos and the Epistemological Limitations of Retro-Causation.Michael J. Ardoline - 2018 - Open Philosophy 1 (1):235-244.
    The question of the metaphysical status of the laws of physics has received increased attention in recent years. Perhaps most well-known among this work are David Lewis’s Humean supervenience and Nancy Cartwright’s dispositionalism, both of which reject the classical conception of the laws of physics as necessary and real independent of the objects they govern, arguing instead that what we call laws are shorthand for the regularities of local states of affairs or the dispositions of objects. The properties of necessity (...)
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  8. Mechanisms, Counterfactuals and Laws.Stavros Ioannidis & Stathis Psillos - 2018 - In Stuart Glennan & Phyllis Illari (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 144-156.
    In this chapter we examine the relation between mechanisms and laws/counterfactuals by revisiting the main notions of mechanism found in the literature. We distinguish between two different conceptions of ‘mechanism’: mechanisms-of underlie or constitute a causal process; mechanisms-for are complex systems that function so as to produce a certain behavior. According to some mechanists, a mechanism fulfills both of these roles simultaneously. The main argument of the chapter is that there is an asymmetrical dependence between both kinds of mechanisms and (...)
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  9. Armstrong’s Theory of Laws and Causation: Putting Things Into Their Proper Places.S. M. Hassan A. Shirazi - 2018 - Problemos 94:61.
    [full article, abstract in English; abstract in Lithuanian] Armstrong’s theory of laws and causation may be articulated as something like the following, which we may refer to as the received view: “Laws are intrinsic higher-order relations of ensuring between properties. The instantiation of laws is identical with singular causation. This identity is a posteriori.” Opponents and advocates of this view, believe that it may fairly and correctly be attributed to Armstrong. I do not deny it; instead I seek to reconsider (...)
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  10. Kant’s Response to Hume in the Second Analogy: A Critique of Gerd Buchdahl’s and Michael Friedman’s Accounts.Saniye Vatansever - 2018 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (2):310–346.
    This article presents a critical analysis of two influential readings of Kant’s Second Analogy, namely, Gerd Buchdahl’s “modest reading” and Michael Friedman’s “strong reading.” After pointing out the textual and philosophical problems with each, I advance an alternative reading of the Second Analogy argument. On my reading, the Second Analogy argument proves the existence of necessary and strictly universal causal laws. This, however, does not guarantee that Kant has a solution for the problem of induction. After I explain why the (...)
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  11. The Certainty, Modality, and Grounding of Newton’s Laws.Zvi Biener & Eric Schliesser - 2017 - The Monist 100 (3):311-325.
    Newton began his Principia with three Axiomata sive Leges Motus. We offer an interpretation of Newton’s dual label and investigate two tensions inherent in his account of laws. The first arises from the juxtaposition of Newton’s confidence in the certainty of his laws and his commitment to their variability and contingency. The second arises because Newton ascribes fundamental status both to the laws and to the bodies and forces they govern. We argue the first is resolvable, but the second is (...)
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  12. A Priori Causal Laws.Darren Bradley - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (4):358-370.
    Sober and Elgin defend the claim that there are a priori causal laws in biology. Lange and Rosenberg take issue with this on Humean grounds, among others. I will argue that Sober and Elgin don’t go far enough – there are a priori causal laws in many sciences. Furthermore, I will argue that this thesis is compatible with a Humean metaphysics and an empiricist epistemology.
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  13. ‘Natures’ and ‘Laws’: The Making of the Concept of Law of Nature – Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon.Yael Kedar & Giora Hon - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 61:21-31.
  14. Causation, Physics, and Fit.Christian Loew - 2017 - Synthese 194 (6):1945–1965.
    Our ordinary causal concept seems to fit poorly with how our best physics describes the world. We think of causation as a time-asymmetric dependence relation between relatively local events. Yet fundamental physics describes the world in terms of dynamical laws that are, possible small exceptions aside, time symmetric and that relate global time slices. My goal in this paper is to show why we are successful at using local, time-asymmetric models in causal explanations despite this apparent mismatch with fundamental physics. (...)
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  15. Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives on Downward Causation.Michele Paolini Paoletti & Francesco Orilia (eds.) - 2017 - Routledge.
    Downward causation plays a fundamental role in many theories of metaphysics and philosophy of mind. It is strictly connected with many topics in philosophy, including but not limited to: emergence, mental causation, the nature of causation, the nature of causal powers and dispositions, laws of nature, and the possibility of ontological and epistemic reductions. _Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives on Downward Causation_ brings together experts from different fields—including William Bechtel, Stewart Clark and Tom Lancaster, Carl Gillett, John Heil, Robin F. Hendry, (...)
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  16. Metaphysics of Science: A Systematic and Historical Introduction.Markus Schrenk - 2017 - London & New York: Routledge.
    Metaphysics and science have a long but troubled relationship. In the twentieth century the Logical Positivists argued metaphysics was irrelevant and that philosophy should be guided by science. However, metaphysics and science attempt to answer many of the same, fundamental questions: What are laws of nature? What is causation? What are natural kinds? -/- In this book, Markus Schrenk examines and explains the central questions and problems in the metaphysics of science. He reviews the development of the field from the (...)
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  17. Emerson's Metaphysics: A Song of Laws and Causes. [REVIEW]Frederic Tremblay - 2017 - The Pluralist 12 (2):120-124.
    This text is a review of Joseph Urbas's Emerson's Metaphysics: A Song of Laws and Causes (Lexington Books, 2016). In this book, Urbas proposes a reconstruction of the metaphysics of the American poet, essayist, and self-defined philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. According to Urbas, Emerson has a coherent metaphysics, the fundamental principle of which is the category of causation. Reacting to David Hume, Emerson would have deliberately emphasized causation, connection, relation, tie, link, and so on. Emerson is thus characterized as a (...)
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  18. Explanation, Laws, and Causation.Wei Wang - 2017 - Routledge.
    Scientific explanation, laws of nature and causation are crucial and frontier issues in the philosophy of science. This book studies the complex relationship between the three concepts, aiming to achieve a holistic synthesis about explanation–laws–causation. By reviewing Hempel's Scientific Explanation models and Salmon's three conceptions – the epistemic, modal and ontic conception – the book suggests that laws are essential to explanation and our understanding of laws will help solve the problems of the latter. Concerning the nature of laws, this (...)
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  19. Leyes Sin Causa y Causas Sin Ley En la Explicación Biológica. [REVIEW]Víctor J. Luque - 2016 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 31 (2):270-272.
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  20. Emerson's Metaphysics: A Song of Laws and Causes.Joseph Urbas - 2016 - Lexington Books.
    This book gives the first complete, fully historicized account of Emerson's metaphysics of cause and effect and its foundational position in his philosophy as a whole. Joseph Urbas proposes an intellectual biography of Emerson the metaphysician but also the life-story of a concept synonymous, in the Transcendentalist period, with life itself—the story of the principle at the origin of all being and change.
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  21. Naturgesetze in einer kausalen Welt.Bartels Andreas - 2015 - mentis.
    How can the laws of nature, that determine how objects behave, be understood as natural objects themselves? The answer that transpires from the analysis of modern theories of the laws of nature is: laws of nature are due to the causal structure of our world. They express the causal efficiacy of fundamental properties of nature. In contrast to rivaling theories, this answer does justice to the fact that laws of nature determine the course of natural events without having to appeal (...)
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  22. Douglas Kutach: Causation and Its Basis in Fundamental Physics. [REVIEW]Thomas Blanchard - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (2):330-333,.
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  23. Laws of nature and causal powers: Two illusory solutions.Sebastián Briceño - 2015 - Alpha (Osorno) 41:73-85.
    La metafísica de la Superveniencia Humeana ha sido atacada por dos alternativas explícitamente anti-Humeanas: el Realismo Nómico y el Esencialismo Disposicional. Cada una de estas alternativas ofrece una explicación ontológica de la actual distribución de instanciaciones de primer orden. Ambas sostienen, contra el Humeano, que esta distribución no es un accidente metafísico. En este artículo argumento que las explicaciones ofrecidas por ellas son ilusorias. -/- The metaphysics of Humean Supervenience has been attacked by two explicitly anti-Humean alternatives: Nomic Realism and (...)
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  24. Locke and the Laws of Nature.Patrick J. Connolly - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (10):2551-2564.
    Many commentators have argued that Locke understood laws of nature as causally efficacious. On this view the laws are causally responsible for the production of natural phenomena. This paper argues that this interpretation faces serious difficulties. First, I argue that it will be very difficult to specify the ontological status of these laws. Proponents of the view suggest that these laws are divine volitions. But I argue that this will be difficult or impossible to square with Locke’s nominalism. Second, I (...)
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  25. Are Social Mechanisms the Antonym of Laws?Amparo Gómez Rodríguez - 2015 - Epistemologia 38 (1):31-46.
    The thesis that in social sciences causal explanations are possible only in terms o mechanisms due to the lack of genuine laws has been increasingly popular among social scientist and philosophers. In this article it is examined whether the explanation by mechanism is necessarily an explanation without laws or, on the contrary, it can involve some kind o laws. To this end it is argued, firstly, that mechanisms are not always the antonym of law insofar as they express propensities and (...)
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  26. Explanatory Asymmetries: Laws of Nature Rehabilitated.Lina Jansson - 2015 - Journal of Philosophy 112 (11):577-599.
    The problem of explanatory non-symmetries provides the strongest reason to abandon the view that laws can figure in explanations without causal underpinnings. I argue that this problem can be overcome. The solution that I propose starts from noticing the importance of conditions of application when laws do explanatory work, and I go on to develop a notion of nomological dependence that can tackle the non-symmetry problem. The strategy is to show how a strong notion of counterfactual dependence as guaranteed by (...)
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  27. Laws of Nature and Causal Necessity.Michael Friedman - 2014 - Kant-Studien 105 (4):531-553.
    Name der Zeitschrift: Kant-Studien Jahrgang: 105 Heft: 4 Seiten: 531-553.
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  28. Causal Powers as Metaphysical Grounds for Laws or Nature.Michael Ghins - 2014 - Epistemologia 37 (2):183-201.
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  29. Kant on Causal Laws and Powers.Tobias Henschen - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 48:20-29.
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  30. Necessity Is Unnecessary: A Response to Bradley.Robert D. Rupert - 2014 - Noûs 48 (3):558-564.
  31. Causação e Física Clássica: existe possibilidade de conciliação?Túlio Roberto Xavier de Aguiar - 2013 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 16 (3):353-364.
    In this work, I analyze our concept of cause in the face of criticism of Bertrand Russell in his article “On the Notion of Cause”. For Russell, there is an estrangement between the notion of cause and mature science of physics. The word cause (and its correlates) would not be used in physics, thus eliminating the main justification of philosophy for his job—the foundation of science. Thus, the various causal notions and the principle of causality should be abandoned by philosophers (...)
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  32. A Relic of a Bygone Age? Causation, Time Symmetry and the Directionality Argument.Matt Farr & Alexander Reutlinger - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (2):215-235.
    Bertrand Russell famously argued that causation is not part of the fundamental physical description of the world, describing the notion of cause as “a relic of a bygone age”. This paper assesses one of Russell’s arguments for this conclusion: the ‘Directionality Argument’, which holds that the time symmetry of fundamental physics is inconsistent with the time asymmetry of causation. We claim that the coherence and success of the Directionality Argument crucially depends on the proper interpretation of the ‘ time symmetry’ (...)
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  33. On the Distinction Between Law Schemata and Causal Laws.Jens Harbecke - 2013 - Acta Analytica 28 (4):423-434.
    The paper argues against the widely accepted assumption that the causal laws of (completed) physics, in contrast to those of the special sciences, are essentially strict. This claim played an important role already in debates about the anomalousness of the mental, and it currently experiences a renaissance in various discussions about mental causation, projectability of special science laws, and the nature of physical laws. By illustrating the distinction with some paradigmatic physical laws, the paper demonstrates that only law schemata are (...)
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  34. Tooley’s Account of the Necessary Connection Between Law and Regularity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (1):33-43.
    Fred Dretske, Michael Tooley, and David Armstrong accept a theory of governing laws of nature according to which laws are atomic states of affairs that necessitate corresponding natural regularities. Some philosophers object to the Dretske/Tooley/Armstrong theory on the grounds that there is no illuminating account of the necessary connection between governing law and natural regularity. In response, Michael Tooley has provided a reductive account of this necessary connection in his book Causation (1987). In this essay, I discuss an improved version (...)
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  35. Kausalität, Determinismus und Physik Schlicks frühe Überlegungen zum Kausalbegriff im Lichte der zeitgenössischen Diskussion.Andreas Hüttemann - 2013 - Schlickiana 6:323-336.
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  36. The Interventionist Account of Causation and Non-Causal Association Laws.Max Kistler - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (1):1-20.
    The key idea of the interventionist account of causation is that a variable A causes a variable B if and only if B would change if A were manipulated in the appropriate way. This paper raises two problems for Woodward's (2003) version of interventionism. The first is that the conditions it imposes are not sufficient for causation, because these conditions are also satisfied by non-causal relations of nomological dependence expressed in association laws. Such laws ground a relation of mutual manipulability (...)
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  37. Causation and Its Basis in Fundamental Physics.Douglas Kutach - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
    I provide a comprehensive metaphysics of causation based on the idea that fundamentally things are governed by the laws of physics, and that derivatively difference-making can be assessed in terms of what fundamental laws of physics imply for hypothesized events. Highlights include a general philosophical methodology, the fundamental/derivative distinction, and my mature account of causal asymmetry.
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  38. Max Kistler: Causation and Laws of Nature. [REVIEW]Stephen Mumford - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):223-227.
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  39. Max Kistler Causation and Laws of Nature: Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy.Stephen Mumford - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):223-227.
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  40. Laws, Causes, and Invariance.James Woodward - 2013 - In Stephen Mumford & Matthew Tugby (eds.), Metaphysics and Science. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter explores some issues having to do with the structure of the evidential reasoning we use to infer causal and lawful claims. It is argued that such reasoning always makes use of prior, causally, or nomologically committed information, thus undercutting various views that attempt to reduce causal and lawful claims to claims about regularities. A non-reductive account of laws and causes built around the notion of invariance is advanced as an alternative.
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  41. Is There an Intrinsic Criterion for Causal Lawlike Statements?Julien Blondeau & Michel Ghins - 2012 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (4):381-401.
    A scientific mathematical law is causal if and only if it is a process law that contains a time derivative. This is the intrinsic criterion for causal laws we propose. A process is a space-time line along which some properties are conserved or vary. A process law contains a time variable, but only process laws that contain a time derivative are causal laws. An effect is identified with what corresponds to a time derivative of some property or magnitude in a (...)
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  42. Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy, by Walter Ott.Joseph K. Cosgrove - 2012 - International Philosophical Quarterly 52 (3):379-381.
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  43. What Could Be Caused Must Actually Be Caused.Christopher Gregory Weaver - 2012 - Synthese 184 (3):299-317.
    I give two arguments for the claim that all events which occur at the actual world and are such that they could be caused, are also such that they must actually be caused. The first argument is an improvement of a similar argument advanced by Alexander Pruss, which I show to be invalid. It uses Pruss’s Brouwer Analog for counterfactual logic, and, as a consequence, implies inconsistency with Lewis’s semantics for counterfactuals. While (I suggest) this consequence may not be objectionable, (...)
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  44. Causes and Laws in the Sciences of Man.Sara Albieri - 2011 - Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 52 (124):331-342.
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  45. Mechanisms, Laws, and Regularities.Holly Andersen - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (2):325-331.
    Leuridan (2010) argued that mechanisms cannot provide a genuine alternative to laws of nature as a model of explanation in the sciences, and advocates Mitchell’s (1997) pragmatic account of laws. I first demonstrate that Leuridan gets the order of priority wrong between mechanisms, regularity, and laws, and then make some clarifying remarks about how laws and mechanisms relate to regularities. Mechanisms are not an explanatory alternative to regularities; they are an alternative to laws. The existence of stable regularities in nature (...)
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  46. Hunting Causes and Using Them: Is There No Bridge From Here to There?Nancy Cartwright & Sophia Efstathiou - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (3):223 - 241.
    Causation is in trouble?at least as it is pictured in current theories in philosophy and in economics as well, where causation is also once again in fashion. In both disciplines the accounts of causality on offer are either modelled too closely on one or another favoured method for hunting causes or on assumptions about the uses to which causal knowledge can be put?generally for predicting the results of our efforts to change the world. The first kind of account supplies no (...)
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  47. The Asymmetry of Influence.Douglas Kutach - 2011 - In Craig Callender (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time. Oxford University Press.
    An explanation of our seeming inability to influence the past.
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  48. Backtracking Influence.Douglas Kutach - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (1):55-71.
    Backtracking influence is influence that zigzags in time. For example, backtracking influence exists when an event E_1 makes an event E_2 more likely by way of a nomic connection that goes from E_1 back in time to an event C and then forward in time to E_2. I contend that in our local region of spacetime, at least, backtracking influence is redundant in the sense that any existing backtracking influence exerted by E_1 on E_2 is equivalent to E_1's temporally direct (...)
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  49. Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy.Kara Richardson - 2011 - Review of Metaphysics 65 (1):177-179.
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  50. From Causes to Laws.Tad M. Schmaltz - 2011 - In Desmond M. Clarke & Catherine Wilson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Early Modern Europe. Oxford University Press.
    This article examines the transition from causes to laws in research during the early modern period in Europe. It discusses Stillman Drake's claim that the search for causes of events in nature that guided science from the time of Aristotle was superseded at the dawn of modern science starting with the work of Galileo. However, there are complications for the suggestion that there was a process by which causes gave way to laws in science. This suggests that Drake's remark that (...)
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