Stathis Psillos
University of Athens
In this paper I develop five worries concerning Cartwright’s realism about entities and capacities. The first is that while she was right to insist on the ontic commitment that flows from causal explanation, she was wrong to tie these commitments solely to the entities that do the causal explaining. This move obscured the nature of causal explanation and its connection to laws. The second worry is that when she turned her attention to causal inference, by insisting on the motto of ‘the most likely cause’, she underplayed her powerful argument for realism. For she focused her attention on an extrinsic feature of causal inference (or, indeed, of any ampliative inference), that is the demand of high probability, leaving behind the intrinsic qualities that causal explanation should have in order to provide the required understanding. The third worry is that her objections to Inference to the Best Explanation were unnecessarily tied to her objections about the falsity of fundamental laws. The fourth worry is that though her argument for positing capacities and being realist about them was supposed to take strength from its parallel with Sellars’s powerful argument for the indispensable explanatory role of positing unobservable entities, there are important disanalogies between the two arguments which cast doubt on the indispensability of capacities. The final (fifth) worry is that laws—perhaps brute regularities—might well have to come back from the front door, since they are still the most plausible candidates for explaining why objects have the capacities to do what they can do.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 53,586
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

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Causality and Explanation.Wesley C. Salmon - 1997 - Oxford University Press.

View all 24 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Causal Warrant for Realism About Particle Physics.Matthias Egg - 2012 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 43 (2):259-280.
The Abundant World: Paul Feyerabend's Metaphysics of Science.Matthew J. Brown - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 57:142-154.
The Scope of Ontological Theorising.Stephen Pratten - 2007 - Foundations of Science 12 (3):235-256.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Cartwright, Capacities, and Probabilities.Gurol Irzik - 1992 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:239 - 250.
Cartwright, Causality, and Coincidence.Deborah G. Mayo - 1986 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1986:42 - 58.
Capacities, Explanation and the Possibility of Disunity.Jakob Hohwy - 2003 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 (2):179 – 190.
The Facticity of Explanation and its Consequences.Yvonne Raley - 2007 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (2):123 – 135.
Causes and Contexts: The Foundations of Laser Theory.Margaret Morrison - 1994 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45 (1):127-151.


Added to PP index

Total views
181 ( #49,265 of 2,348,586 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #186,189 of 2,348,586 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes