Theoria 76 (4):287-313 (2010)

George Steven Botterill
University of Sheffield
To give a causal explanation is to give information about causal history. But a vast amount of causal history lies behind anything that happens, far too much to be included in any intelligible explanation. This is the Problem of Limitation for explanatory information. To cope with this problem, explanations must select for what is relevant to and adequate for answering particular inquiries. In the present paper this idea is used in order to distinguish two kinds of causal explanation, on the grounds of systematic differences in their conditions of relevance and adequacy. It is further argued that these two forms of causal explanation are interdependent and their interaction provides an instrument through which causal knowledge is acquired and enhanced. What we understand causation in the world to be is neither unconditioned regularity, nor counterfactual dependence, but the sum of correct answers to explanatory inquiries of these two interdependent kinds
Keywords causation  explanation  contrast  difference  process
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1755-2567.2010.01079.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 62,289
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.John Locke - 1689 - Oxford University Press.
The Scientific Image.C. Van Fraassen Bas - 1980 - Oxford University Press.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1993 - Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.

View all 44 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Understanding Science: Why Causes Are Not Enough.Ruth Berger - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (2):306-332.
A Defense of a Unificationist Theory of Explanation.Rebecca Schweder - 2005 - Foundations of Science 10 (4):421-435.
Causal and Explanatory Asymmetry.Daniel M. Hausman - 1982 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982 (Volume One: Contributed Papers):43 - 54.
Forms of Causal Explanation.Erik Weber, Jeroen Van Bouwel & Robrecht Vanderbeeken - 2005 - Foundations of Science 10 (4):437-454.
Unification and Explanation.Erik Weber & Maarten Van Dyck - 2002 - Synthese 131 (1):145 - 154.
When Functions and Causes Compete.Daniel Heussen - 2010 - Thinking and Reasoning 16 (3):233-250.


Added to PP index

Total views
161 ( #64,767 of 2,445,269 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #232,632 of 2,445,269 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes