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  1. What Can Mechanisms Do for You? Mechanisms and the Problem of Confounders in the Social Sciences.María Jiménez-Buedo & Juan Carlos Squitieri - 2019 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 49 (3):210-231.
    The idea that mechanisms are crucially important to differentiate between genuine and spurious causal relations is ubiquitous both in the philosophical and in the social scientific literature. Yet philosophers of the social sciences have seldom attempted to spell out systematically the way in which mechanistic reasoning or evidence are concretely used to deal with spurious association and the problem of confounders in the social sciences. In this paper, we analyze two recent such accounts, proposed by Harold Kincaid and Daniel Steel. (...)
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  • Social Mechanisms, Causal Inference, and the Policy Relevance of Social Science.Erik Weber - 2007 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37 (3):348-359.
    The paper has two aims. First, to show that we need social mechanisms to establish the policy relevance of causal claims, even if it is possible to build a good argument for those claims without knowledge of mechanisms. Second, to show that although social scientists can, in principle, do without social mechanisms when they argue for causal claims, in reality scientific practice contexts where they do not need mechanisms are very rare. Key Words: social mechanisms • causal inference • social (...)
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  • Causal Understanding and the Search for Scientific Explanations: A Case Study From the History of Medicine.Leen De Vreese - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 39 (1):14-24.
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  • Causation in the Social Sciences: Evidence, Inference, and Purpose.Julian Reiss - 2009 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 39 (1):20-40.
    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.
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  • Reply to Daniel Steel's "with or Without Mechanisms".Erik Weber - 2008 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (2):267-270.
    In this discussion note I clarify the motivation behind my original paper "Social Mechanisms, Causal Inference and the Policy Relevance of Social Science." I argue that one of the tasks of philosophers of social science is to draw attention to methodological problems that are often forgotten or overlooked. Then I show that my original paper does not make the mistake or fallacy that Daniel Steel suggests in his comment on it. Key Words: social mechanisms • causal inference • social policy.
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  • Process Tracing as an Effective Epistemic Complement.Attilia Ruzzene - 2014 - Topoi 33 (2):1-12.
    In the last decades philosophers of science and social scientists promoted the view that knowledge of mechanisms might help causal inference considerably in the social sciences. Mechanisms, however, can only assist causal inference effectively if scientists have a means to identify them correctly. Some scholars suggested that process-tracing might be a helpful strategy in this respect. Shared criteria to assess its performance, however, are not available yet; furthermore, the criteria proposed so far tie the validity of process-tracing findings to the (...)
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  • Narratives and Action Explanation.T. Uebel - 2012 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 42 (1):31-67.
    This article discusses an epistemological problem faced by causal explanations of action and a proposed solution. The problem is to justify why one particular reason rather than another is specified as causally efficacious. It is argued that the problem arises independently of one’s preferred conception of singular causal claims, psychological and psychophysical generalizations, and our folk-psychological competence. The proposed fallibilist solution involves the supplementation of the reason given by narratives that contextualize it and provide additional criteria for justifying the causal (...)
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  • Two Concepts of Mechanism: Componential Causal System and Abstract Form of Interaction.Jaakko Kuorikoski - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (2):143 – 160.
    Although there has been much recent discussion on mechanisms in philosophy of science and social theory, no shared understanding of the crucial concept itself has emerged. In this paper, a distinction between two core concepts of mechanism is made on the basis that the concepts correspond to two different research strategies: the concept of mechanism as a componential causal system is associated with the heuristic of functional decomposition and spatial localization and the concept of mechanism as an abstract form of (...)
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  • Mechanistic Evidence: Disambiguating the Russo–Williamson Thesis.Phyllis McKay Illari - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (2):139 - 157.
    Russo and Williamson claim that establishing causal claims requires mechanistic and difference-making evidence. In this article, I will argue that Russo and Williamson's formulation of their thesis is multiply ambiguous. I will make three distinctions: mechanistic evidence as type vs object of evidence; what mechanism or mechanisms we want evidence of; and how much evidence of a mechanism we require. I will feed these more precise meanings back into the Russo?Williamson thesis and argue that it is both true and false: (...)
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  • How Probabilistic Causation Can Account for the Use of Mechanistic Evidence.Erik Weber - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (3):277-295.
    In a recent article in this journal, Federica Russo and Jon Williamson argue that an analysis of causality in terms of probabilistic relationships does not do justice to the use of mechanistic evidence to support causal claims. I will present Ronald Giere's theory of probabilistic causation, and show that it can account for the use of mechanistic evidence (both in the health sciences—on which Russo and Williamson focus—and elsewhere). I also review some other probabilistic theories of causation (of Suppes, Eells, (...)
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  • Explanation, Understanding, and Unrealistic Models.Frank Hindriks - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):523-531.
  • Two Approaches to Reasoning From Evidence or What Econometrics Can Learn From Biomedical Research.Julian Reiss - 2015 - Journal of Economic Methodology 22 (3):373-390.
    This paper looks at an appeal to the authority of biomedical research that has recently been used by empirical economists to motivate and justify their methods. I argue that those who make this appeal mistake the nature of biomedical research. Randomised trials, which are said to have revolutionised biomedical research, are a central methodology, but according to only one paradigm. There is another paradigm at work in biomedical research, the inferentialist paradigm, in which randomised trials play no special role. I (...)
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  • Mechanisms as Miracle Makers? The Rise and Inconsistencies of the "Mechanismic Approach" in Social Science and History.Zenonas Norkus - 2005 - History and Theory 44 (3):348–372.
    In the increasing body of metatheoretical literature on "causal mechanisms," definitions of "mechanism" proliferate, and these increasingly divergent definitions reproduce older theoretical and methodological oppositions. The reason for this proliferation is the incompatibility of the various metatheoretical expectations directed to them: (1) to serve as an alternative to the scientific theory of individual behavior (for some social theorists, most notably Jon Elster); (2) to provide solutions for causal inference problems in the quantitative social sciences, in social history, and in the (...)
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  • Causal (Mis)Understanding and the Search for Scientific Explanations: A Case Study From the History of Medicine.Leen De Vreese - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 39 (1):14-24.
    In 1747, James Lind carried out an experiment which proved the usefulness of citrus fruit as a cure for scurvy. Nonetheless, he rejected the earlier hypothesis of Bachstrom that the absence of fresh fruit and vegetables was the only cause of the disease. I explain why it was rational for James Lind not to accept Bachstrom’s explanation. I argue that it was the urge for scientific understanding that guided Lind in his rejection and in the development of his alternative theory (...)
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  • Transdisciplinarity as a Nonimperial Encounter: For an Open Sociology.Steinmetz George - 2007 - Thesis Eleven 91 (1):48-65.
    In this article I argue for a transdisciplinary approach to the human or social sciences. There is little ontological or epistemological justification for a division among these disciplines. I recommend that sociology stop worrying about policing its disciplinary boundaries and begin to encourage various forms of intellectual transculturation. I then analyze barriers to transdisciplinarity by comparing disciplines to states and comparing the relations among disciplines to different sorts of imperial practice, or interstate relations. The most common interdisciplinary strategies are analogous (...)
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  • With or Without Mechanisms.Daniel Steel - 2007 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37 (3):360-365.
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  • Causal Mechanisms in Political Science.Rosa W. Runhardt - 2015 - Metascience 24 (3):453-456.
    Philosophers of social science have emphasized mechanistic approaches to causal inquiry for some time now, showing why focusing on the mechanisms behind correlations is preferable to focusing on correlations alone (cf. Johnson 2006, Little 1991, Reiss 2007, 2009, Steel 2004, see also King, Keohane, and Verba 1994 for an example of purely correlational research). In Process Tracing: from Metaphor to Analytic Tool, political scientists Andrew Bennett and Jeffrey Checkel present a concrete method for finding evidence of causal mechanisms, process tracing. (...)
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