Functional explanation, consequence explanation, and marxism

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


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



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,283

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

When functions and causes compete.Daniel Heussen - 2010 - Thinking and Reasoning 16 (3):233-250.
Viability explanation.Arno Wouters - 1995 - Biology and Philosophy 10 (4):435-457.
Functional explanation and metaphysical individualism.Justin Schwartz - 1993 - Philosophy of Science 60 (2):278-301.
Historical materialism and functional explanation.Allen W. Wood - 1986 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 29 (1-4):11 – 27.
Can Intentional and Functional Explanations of Actions Coexist?Rob Vanderbeeken - 2006 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 9:143-147.


Added to PP

211 (#96,259)

6 months
12 (#220,388)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

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.

View all 14 citations / Add more citations

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.

Add more references