The Russo–Williamson Theses in the social sciences: Causal inference drawing on two types of evidence


Abstract
This article examines two theses formulated by Russo and Williamson in their study of causal inference in the health sciences. The two theses are assessed against evidence from a specific case in the social sciences, i.e., research on the institutional determinants of the aggregate unemployment rate. The first Russo–Williamson Thesis is that a causal claim can only be established when it is jointly supported by difference-making and mechanistic evidence. This thesis is shown not to hold. While researchers in my case study draw extensively on both types of evidence, one causal claim out of the three analyzed is established even though it is exclusively supported by mechanistic evidence. The second Russo–Williamson Thesis is that standard accounts of causality fail to handle the dualist epistemology highlighted in the first Thesis. I argue that a counterfactual-manipulationist account of causality—which is endorsed by many philosophers as well as many social scientists—can perfectly make sense of the typical strategy in my case study to draw on both difference-making and mechanistic evidence; it is just an instance of the common strategy of increasing evidential variety
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2012.05.004
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References found in this work BETA

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.
Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes.Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.
Interpreting Causality in the Health Sciences.Federica Russo & Jon Williamson - 2007 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (2):157 – 170.

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Citations of this work BETA

Establishing Causal Claims in Medicine.Jon Williamson - 2019 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 32 (1):33-61.
Causality, Mosaics, and the Health Sciences.Olaf Dammann - 2016 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 37 (2):161-168.

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