Functional explanation, consequence explanation, and marxism

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 25 (1):27 – 56 (1982)
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Abstract

I argued in Karl Marx's Theory of History that the central claims of historical materialism are functional explanations, and I said that functional explanations are consequence explanations, ones, that is, in which something is explained by its propensity to have a certain kind of effect. I also claimed that the theory of chance variation and natural selection sustains functional explanations, and hence consequence explanations, of organismic equipment. In Section I I defend the thesis that historical materialism offers functional or consequence explanations, and I reject Jon Elster's contention that game theory can, and should, assume a central role in the Marxist theory of society. In Section II I contrast functional and consequence explanation, thereby revising the position of Karl Marx's Theory of History, and I question whether evolutionary biology supports functional explanations. Section III is a critique of Elster's views on functional explanation, and Sections IV and V defend consequence explanation against metaphysical and epistemological doubts. A concluding section summarizes my present understanding of the status of historical materialist explanations

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Author's Profile

Gina Cohen
Universidad Anahuac del Sur (PhD)

Citations of this work

Marxism, Materialism and Historical Progress.Debra Satz - 1989 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 19 (sup1):391-424.
Historical materialism and functional explanation.Allen W. Wood - 1986 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 29 (1-4):11 – 27.

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References found in this work

Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence.G. A. Cohen - 1978 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Marx's interpretation of history.Melvin Miller Rader - 1979 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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