In Defense of a Causal Requirement on Explanation

In Phyllis McKay Illari Federica Russo (ed.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press. pp. 470 (2011)
Authors
Garrett Pendergraft
Pepperdine University
Abstract
Causalists about explanation claim that to explain an event is to provide information about the causal history of that event. Some causalists also endorse a proportionality claim, namely that one explanation is better than another insofar as it provides a greater amount of causal information. In this chapter I consider various challenges to these causalist claims. There is a common and influential formulation of the causalist requirement – the ‘Causal Process Requirement’ – that does appear vulnerable to these anti-causalist challenges, but I argue that they do not give us reason to reject causalism entirely. Instead, these challenges lead us to articulate the causalist requirement in an alternative way. This alternative articulation incorporates some of the important anti-causalist insights without abandoning the explanatory necessity of causal information. For example, proponents of the ‘equilibrium challenge’ argue that the best available explanations of the behaviour of certain dynamical systems do not appear to provide any causal information. I respond that, contrary to appearances, these equilibrium explanations are fundamentally causal, and I provide a formulation of the causalist thesis that is immune to the equilibrium challenge. I then show how this formulation is also immune to the ‘epistemic challenge’ – thus vindicating (a properly formulated version of) the causalist thesis.
Keywords Scientific explanation  Causation  Equilibrium explanation  Causal explanation  David Lewis  Wesley Salmon  Elliott Sober  James Woodward  Michael Strevens  Alan Garfinkel
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Understanding Science: Why Causes Are Not Enough.Ruth Berger - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (2):306-332.
Two Kinds of Causal Explanation.George Botterill - 2010 - Theoria 76 (4):287-313.
Causal Explanation and Manipulation.Stathis Psillos - 2007 - In Johannes Persson & Petri Ylikoski (eds.), Rethinking Explanation. Springer. pp. 93--107.
Probabilities: Reasonable or True?J. Alberto Coffa - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (2):186-198.
Laws, Causality and the Intentional Explanation of Action.Zhu Xu - 2010 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 5 (2):280-293.
Causes as Explanations: A Critique.Jaegwon Kim - 1981 - Theory and Decision 13 (4):293.
A Defense of a Unificationist Theory of Explanation.Rebecca Schweder - 2005 - Foundations of Science 10 (4):421-435.
Wesley Salmon's Complementarity Thesis: Causalism and Unificationism Reconciled?Henk W. de Regt - 2006 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (2):129 – 147.
Forms of Causal Explanation.Erik Weber, Jeroen Van Bouwel & Robrecht Vanderbeeken - 2005 - Foundations of Science 10 (4):437-454.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2013-05-10

Total views
237 ( #22,482 of 2,312,710 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
14 ( #40,262 of 2,312,710 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature