Understanding science: Why causes are not enough

Philosophy of Science 65 (2):306-332 (1998)
This paper is an empirical critique of causal accounts of scientific explanation. Drawing on explanations which rely on nonlinear dynamical modeling, I argue that the requirement of causal relevance is both too strong and too weak to be constitutive of scientific explanation. In addition, causal accounts obscure how the process of mathematical modeling produces explanatory information. I advance three arguments for the inadequacy of causal accounts. First, I argue that explanatorily relevant information is not always information about causes, even in cases where the explanandum has an identifiable causal history. Second, I argue that treating theoretical explanations as reductions from general causal laws does not accurately describe the types of "top-down" explanations typical of dynamical modeling. Finally, I argue that causal/mechanical accounts of explanation are intrinsically vulnerable to the irrelevance problem
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/392641
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,664
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Henk W. de Regt (2006). Wesley Salmon's Complementarity Thesis: Causalism and Unificationism Reconciled? International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (2):129 – 147.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

63 ( #76,495 of 1,902,964 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

15 ( #54,453 of 1,902,964 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.