Journal of Philosophy 109 (11):652-675 (2012)

Michael Strevens
New York University
What do the words "ceteris paribus" add to a causal hypothesis, that is, to a generalization that is intended to articulate the consequences of a causal mechanism? One answer, which looks almost too good to be true, is that a ceteris paribus hedge restricts the scope of the hypothesis to those cases where nothing undermines, interferes with, or undoes the effect of the mechanism in question, even if the hypothesis's own formulator is otherwise unable to specify fully what might constitute such undermining or interference. I will propose a semantics for causal generalizations according to which ceteris paribus hedges deliver on this promise, because the truth conditions for a causal generalization depend in part on the—perhaps unknown—nature of the mechanism whose consequences it is intended to describe. It follows that the truth conditions for causal hypotheses are typically opaque to the very scientists who formulate and test them.
Keywords Ceteris paribus
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0022-362X
DOI 10.5840/jphil20121091138
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: 56,988
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.
The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
The Scientific Image.Michael Friedman - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (5):274-283.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.

View all 33 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

A Theory of Non-Universal Laws.Alexander Reutlinger - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (2):97 - 117.
High-Level Exceptions Explained.Michael Strevens - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (S10):1819-1832.

View all 18 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Causal Equations Without Ceteris Paribus Clauses.Peter Gildenhuys - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (4):608-632.
Ceteris Paribus Clauses and Causality in Economics.Daniel M. Hausman - 1988 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988:308 - 316.
Ceteris Paribus Laws and Psychological Explanations.Charles Wallis - 1994 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:388-397.
When Other Things Aren’T Equal: Saving Ceteris Paribus Laws From Vacuity.Paul Pietroski & Georges Rey - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (1):81-110.


Added to PP index

Total views
115 ( #85,568 of 2,410,262 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #149,573 of 2,410,262 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes