Mechanisms, Modularity and Constitutive Explanation

Erkenntnis 77 (3):361-380 (2012)
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Mechanisms are often characterized as causal structures and the interventionist account of causation is then used to characterize what it is to be a causal structure. The associated modularity constraint on causal structures has evoked criticism against using the theory as an account of mechanisms, since many mechanisms seem to violate modularity. This paper answers to this criticism by making a distinction between a causal system and a causal structure. It makes sense to ask what the modularity properties of a given causal structure are, but not whether a causal system is modular tout court. The counter-examples to the interventionist account are systems in which a particular structure is modular in variables, but not in parameters. A failure of parameter-modularity does not by itself threaten the interventionist interpretation of the structure and the possibility of causally explaining with that structure, but it does mean that knowledge of the structure is not sufficient to constitutively explain system-level properties of the embedding system



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Jaakko Kuorikoski
University of Helsinki

Citations of this work

There Are No Mathematical Explanations.Jaakko Kuorikoski - 2021 - Philosophy of Science 88 (2):189-212.
How to Be a Humean Interventionist.Jaakko Kuorikoski - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (2):333-351.

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