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Abstract
One way social scientists explain phenomena is by building structural models. These models are explanatory insofar as they manage to perform a recursive decomposition on an initial multivariate probability distribution, which can be interpreted as a mechanism. Explanations in social sciences share important aspects that have been highlighted in the mechanisms literature. Notably, spelling out the functioning the mechanism gives it explanatory power. Thus social scientists should choose the variables to include in the model on the basis of their function in the mechanism. This paper examines the notion of ‘function’ within structural modelling. We argue that ‘functions’ ought to be understood as the theoretical underpinnings of the causes, namely as the role that causes play in the functioning of the mechanism
Keywords Causality  Explanation  Function  Mechanism  Recursive decomposition  Structural modelling
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DOI 10.1007/s10838-014-9242-z
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Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
Making Things Happen. A Theory of Causal Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):233-249.

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