Synthese 194 (12):4815-4838 (2017)

I apply James Woodward’s interventionist theory of causation to organic chemistry, modelling three different ways that chemists are able to manipulate the reaction conditions in order to control the outcome of a reaction. These consist in manipulations to the reaction kinetics, thermodynamics, and whether the kinetics or thermodynamics predominates. It is possible to construct interventionist causal models of all of these kinds of manipulation, and therefore to account for them using Woodward’s theory. However, I show that there is an alternate, more illuminating way of thinking about the third kind of reaction control, according to which chemists are thought of as manipulating which causal system is instantiated. I show that our ability to manipulate which system is instantiated is an important part of our ability to control the world, as is therefore especially relevant to interventionism. Thus, considering examples from organic chemistry leads to the identification of an important extension to Woodward’s theory. Finally, this investigation into reaction control in organic chemistry also has a more general implication: it suggests that interventionism results in a version of pragmatism about causation.
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-016-1170-5
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References found in this work BETA

Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
Philosophical Papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Contrastive Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (3):327-358.

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Chemical reactivity: cause-effect or interaction?Alfio Zambon - forthcoming - Foundations of Chemistry:1-13.

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