A new series entitled Oxford Philosophical Concepts (OPC) made its debut in November 2014. As the series’ Editor Christia Mercer notes, this series is an attempt to respond to the call for and the tendency of many philosophers to invigorate the discipline. To that end each volume will rethink a central concept in the history of philosophy, e.g. efficient causation, health, evil, eternity, etc. “Each OPC volume is a history of its concept in that it tells a (...) story about changing solutions to specific philosophical problems” (xiii). The series presents itself as innovative along three main lines: its reexamination of the so-called “canon,” its reconsidering the value of interdisciplinary exchanges, and its encouraging philosophers to move beyond the current borders of philosophy. By engaging with non-Western traditions and carefully considering topics and materials which are not strictly philosophical, the collections from this series aim to render the history of philosophy accessible to a wide audience. -/- The first OPC volume to appear in print is “Efficient Causation – A History” edited by Tad Schmaltz. Using careful historical and philosophical analysis as well as interdisciplinary reflections this anthology proposes to tell the story of how efficient causation, equated nowadays with “causation” tout court, came to play its prominent role in our philosophical and scientific vocabulary. Eleven contributions cover the period from Ancient times (Aristotle and the Stoics), through the Middle Ages (both the Western and the Islamic traditions), passing through the Early Modern times (represented here by Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Malebranche, Berkeley and Hume), all the way to Kant and finally contemporary philosophers (classified into two opposing camps: Humean and Neo-Aristotelian). There are also four reflections which explore the applications of the notion of efficient causation to areas different from philosophy, especially the arts (literature, music, painting, etc.). (shrink)
Among the many philosophers who hold that causal facts1 are to be explained in terms of—or more ambitiously, shown to reduce to—facts about what happens, together with facts about the fundamental laws that govern what happens, the clear favorite is an approach that sees counterfactual dependence as the key to such explanation or reduction. The paradigm examples of causation, so advocates of this approach tell us, are examples in which events c and e— the cause and its effect— both (...) occur, but: had c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. From this starting point ideas proliferate in a vast profusion. But the remarkable disparity among these ideas should not obscure their common foundation. Neither should the diversity of opinion about the prospects for a philosophical analysis of causation obscure their importance. For even those philosophers who see these prospects as dim—perhaps because they suffer post-Quinean queasiness at the thought of any analysis of any concept of interest—can often be heard to say such things as that causal relations among events are somehow “a matter of” the patterns of counterfactual dependence to be found in them. (shrink)
This volume is a history of the concept of efficient causation in three parts. The natural starting point of this history is Aristotle, who claims to be the first to introduce the concept of the efficient cause. According to Aristotle, his predecessors had at most a confused and inadequate notion of this cause. By contrast, he has a theory of the four causes, and his treatment of the efficient cause is a part of that theory. Note, however, (...) that Aristotle does not speak of the efficient cause but rather of the first source of change. A careful analysis of what he says shows that his conception of this cause is only at first sight simple and familiar to us. On reflection, it turns out to be a rather complex.. (shrink)
This volume is a collection of new essays by specialists that trace the concept of efficient causation from its discovery in Ancient Greece, through its development in late antiquity, the medieval period, and modern philosophy, to its use in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of science.
Following the practice of human beings everywhere historians distinguish the real or most significant cause of an occurrence or state of affairs from ‘less important considerations’, ‘precipitating circumstances’, or ‘mere conditions’. I shall term claims that some phenomenon is most basically to be attributed to some one of the factors causally necessary for its occurrence attributive causal explanations or causal attributions and discuss here the extent to which moral convictions are constitutive of them.
It is widely supposed that David Hume invented and espoused the "regularity" theory of causation, holding that causal relations are nothing but a matter of one type of thing being regularly followed by another. It is also widely supposed that he was not only right about this, but that it was one of his greatest contributions to philosophy. Strawson here argues that the regularity theory of causation is indefensible, and that Hume never adopted it in any case. Strawson (...) maintains that Hume did not claim that causation in the natural world is just a matter of regular succession, that such a dogmatic metaphysical claim about the nature of reality would have been utterly contrary to his fundamental philosophical principles, and that he rightly took it for granted that there was more to causation than regularity of succession, claiming only that regularity of succession was all that we could ever know of causation. (shrink)
A collection of new essays on causation in the period from Galileo to Lady Mary Shepherd (roughly 1600-1850). Contributors: David Wootton, Tad Schmaltz, William Eaton and Robert Higgerson, Eric Schliesser, Pauline Phemister, Timothy Stanton, Peter Millican, Constantine Sandis, Boris Hennig, Angela Breitenbach, Stathis Psillos, and Martha Brandt Bolton.
_ Source: _Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 441 - 456 Several kinds of historical alternatives are distinguished. Different kinds of historical alternatives are valuable to the practice of history for different reasons. Important uses for historical alternatives include representing different sides of historical disputes; distributing chances of different outcomes over alternatives; and offering explanations of why various alternatives did _not_ in fact happen. Consideration of counterfactuals about what would have happened had things been different in particular ways plays particularly (...) useful roles in reasoning about historical analogues of current conditions; reasoning about causal claims; and in evaluating historical explanations. When evaluating the role of alternative histories in historical thinking, we should keep in mind the uses of historical alternatives that go well beyond the long-term and specific scenarios that are the focus of so-called “counterfactual history”. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 433 - 440 Historical explanations are a form of counterfactual history. To offer an explanation of what happened, historians have to identify causes, and whenever they identify causes, they immediately conjure up a counterfactual history, a parallel world. No one doubts that there is a great deal of distance between science fiction novelists and the world’s great historians, but along an important dimension, they are playing the same game.
To date, no satisfactory account of the connection between natural-scientific and historical explanation has been given, and philosophers seem to have largely given up on the problem. This paper is an attempt to resolve this old issue and to sort out and clarify some areas of historical explanation by developing and applying a method that will be called “pragmatic explication” involving the construction of definitions that are justified on pragmatic grounds. Explanations in general can be divided into “dynamic” and “static” (...) explanations, which are those that essentially require relations across time and those that do not, respectively. The problem of assimilating historical explanations concerns dynamic explanation, so a general analysis of dynamic explanation that captures both the structure of natural-scientific and historical explanation is offered. This is done in three stages: In the first stage, pragmatic explication is introduced and compared to other philosophical methods of explication. In the second stage pragmatic explication is used to tie together a series of definitions that are introduced in order to establish an account of explanation. This involves an investigation of the conditions that play the role in historiography that laws and statistical regularities play in the natural sciences. The essay argues that in the natural sciences, as well as in history, the model of explanation presented represents the aims and overarching structure of actual causal explanations offered in those disciplines. In the third stage the system arrived at in the preceding stage is filled in with conditions available to and relevant for historical inquiry. Further, the nature and treatment of causes in history and everyday life are explored and related to the system being proposed. This in turn makes room for a view connecting aspects of historical explanation and what we generally take to be causal relations. (shrink)
R. J. Hankinson traces the history of ancient Greek thinking about causation and explanation, from its earliest beginnings through more than a thousand years to the middle of the first millennium of the Christian era. He examines ways in which the Ancient Greeks dealt with questions about how and why things happen as and when they do, about the basic constitution and structure of things, about function and purpose, laws of nature, chance, coincidence, and responsibility.
In 1982, when computers were just becoming widely available, I was a graduate student beginning my work with Clark Glymour on a PhD thesis entitled: “Causality in the Social Sciences.” Dazed and confused by the vast philosophical literature on causation, I found relative solace in the clarity of Structural Equation Models (SEMs), a form of statistical model used commonly by practicing sociologists, political scientists, etc., to model causal hypotheses with which associations among measured variables might be explained. The statistical (...) literature around SEMs was vast as well, but Clark had extracted from it a particular kind of evidential constraint first studied by Charles Spearman at the beginning of the 20th century, the “vanishing tetrad difference.”1 As it turned out, certain kinds of causal structures entailed these constraints, and others did not. Spearman used this lever to argue for the existence of a single, general intelligence factor, the infamous g (Spearman, 1904). (shrink)
Contemporary philosophy of mind is dominated by a conception of our propositional attitude concepts as comprising a proto-scientific causal-explanatory theory of behavior. This conception has given rise to a spate of recent worries about the prospects for “naturalizing” the theory. In this paper I return to the roots of the “theory-theory” of the attitudes in Wilfrid Sellars’s classic “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.” I present an alternative to the theory-theory’s account of belief in the form of a parody of (...) Sellars’s “Myth of Jones,” one that highlights the normative and pragmatic aspects of this concept and, hopefully, enables us to bypass questions about its physical “realization.”. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 349 - 369 A theory of causation suitable for historiography must accommodate the many types of causal claims historians make. In this paper, I examine the advantages of applying D. K. Lewis’s counterfactual theory of causation to the philosophy of historiography. I contend that Lewis’s possible world semantics offers a superior framework for making sense of historical causation, and that it lays the foundation for historians to look at history (...) as causal series of events, remaining agnostic as to whether there may be historical regularities or laws. Lewis’s theory can also accommodate important notions often used by historians, such as absences as causes, historical necessity and contingency, and the role they play in the formulation of historical counterfactuals. (shrink)
Progress in understanding, clarifying, forming, and devising methods for analyzing, eliminating, or resolving the problems of the philosophies of history and historiography requires integration with other branches of philosophy such as metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and ethics. Conversely, mainstream philosophical theories would benefit from confronting the problems of the philosophies of history and historiography. Solving the problems of the philosophies of historiography and history requires considering historiography as continuous with philosophy.This approach (...) is exemplified by examining metaphysical issues in the philosophy of history—historical contingency, necessity, determination, causation, over-determination, and under-determination—as well as investigating the epistemology of testimony for its relevance to the epistemology of our knowledge of the past.Inference from multiple testimonies is a particular case of a general model of inference, one in which scientists infer a common cause from multiple sources of evidence that preserve similar information about their common causes. The historical sciences—history, phylogeny, evolutionary biology, comparative historical linguistics, and cosmology—all infer common causes or origins. The theoretical sciences are not interested in any particular token event, but in types of events, whereas, in contrast, the historical sciences attempt to infer common-cause tokens.The main reasons for the absence of decisive progress in the philosophy of historiography along the promising directions the article outlines are external: random, adverse institutional and market conditions that block the professionalization of the field. (shrink)
The subject of this essay-based dissertation is Hume’s natural philosophy. The dissertation consists of four separate essays and an introduction. These essays do not only treat Hume’s views on the topic of natural philosophy, but his views are placed into a broader context of history of philosophy and science, physics in particular. The introductory section outlines the historical context, shows how the individual essays are connected, expounds what kind of research methodology has been used, and encapsulates the research contributions (...) of the essays. The first essay treats Newton’s experimentalist methodology in gravity research and its relation to Hume’s causal philosophy. It is argued that Hume does not see the relation of cause and effect as being founded on a priori reasoning, similar to the way in which Newton criticized non-empirical hypotheses about the causal properties of gravity. Contrary to Hume’s rules of causation, the universal law does not include a reference either to contiguity or succession, but Hume accepts it in interpreting the force and the law of gravity instrumentally. The second article considers Newtonian and non-Newtonian elements in Hume more broadly. He is sympathetic to many prominently Newtonian themes in natural philosophy, such as experimentalism, critique of hypotheses, inductive proof, and the critique of Leibnizian principles of sufficient reason and intelligibility. However, Hume is not a Newtonian philosopher in many respects: his conceptions regarding space and time, the vacuum, the specifics of causation, the status of mechanism, and the reality of forces differ markedly from Newton’s related conceptions. The third article focuses on Hume’s Fork and the proper epistemic status of propositions of mixed mathematics. It is shown that the epistemic status of propositions of mixed mathematics, such as those concerning laws of nature, is that of matters of fact. The reason for this is that the propositions of mixed mathematics are dependent on the Uniformity Principle. The fourth article analyzes Einstein’s acknowledgement of Hume regarding special relativity. The views of the scientist and the philosopher are juxtaposed, and it is argued that there are two common points to be found in their writings, namely an empiricist theory of ideas and concepts and a relationist ontology regarding space and time. (shrink)
Recent discussions of mental causation have focused on three principles: (1) Mental properties are (sometimes) causally relevant to physical effects; (2) mental properties are not physical properties; (3) every physical event has in its causal history only physical events and physical properties. Since these principles seem to be inconsistent, solutions have focused on rejecting one or more of them. But I argue that, in spite of appearances, (1)–(3) are not inconsistent. The reason is that 'properties' is used in (...) different senses in the principles. In (1) and (3), 'properties' should be read as 'tropes' (properties here are particulars), while in (2) 'properties' should read as 'types' (properties here are universals or classes). Although mental types are distinct from physical types, every mental trope is a physical trope. This allows mental properties to be causally relevant to physical effects without violating the closed character of the physical world. (shrink)
Causation is important. It is, as Hume said, the cement of the universe, and lies at the heart of our conceptual structure. Causation is one of the most fundamental tools we have for organizing our apprehension of the external world and ourselves. But philosophers' disagreement about the correct interpretation of causation is as limitless as their agreement about its importance. The history of attempts to elucidate the nature of this concept and to situate it with respect (...) to other fundamental concepts is almost as long as the history of philosophy itself. In this first English translation of Causalite; et lois de la nature Max Kistler seeks to reconstruct a unified concept of causation that is general enough to adequately deal with both elementary physical processes and the macroscopic level of phenomena we encounter in everyday life. It will be of great interest to philosophers of science and metaphysics; and also to students and scholars of philosophy of mind where concepts of causation and law play a prominent role. (shrink)
In this article, I begin by giving a brief history of melanoma causation. I then discuss the current manner in which malignant melanoma is classified. In general, these systems of classification do not take account of the manner of tumour causation. Instead, they are based on phenomenological features of the tumour, such as size, spread, and morphology. I go on to suggest that misclassification of melanoma is a major problem in clinical practice. I therefore outline an alternative (...) means of classifying these tumours based on causal factors. By analogy with similar systems that have recently emerged for other cancers, I suggest that this causal classification is likely to be both workable and helpful, even in the absence of a full causal-mechanistic understanding of the aetiology of the tumour. (shrink)
, whereby some causes are deemed more important than others, are ubiquitous in historical studies. Drawing from influential recent work on causation, I develop a definition of causal-explanatory strength. This makes clear exactly which aspects of explanatory weighting are subjective and which objective. It also sheds new light on several traditional issues, showing for instance that: underlying causes need not be more important than proximate ones; several different causes can each be responsible for most of an effect; small causes (...) need not be less important than big ones; and non-additive interactive effects between causes present no particular difficulty. Key Words: causation • explanation • history • interaction • proximate • underlying. (shrink)
Situation theory, as developed by Barwise and his collaborators, is used to demonstrate the possibility of defining teleology (and related notions, like that of proper or biological function) in terms of higher order causation, along the lines suggested by Taylor and Wright. This definition avoids the excessive narrowness that results from trying to define teleology in terms of evolutionary history or the effects of natural selection. By legitimating the concept of teleology, this definition also provides promising new avenues (...) for solving long standing problems in the philosophy of mind, such as the problems of intentionality and mental causation. (shrink)
The Truth of History questions how modern historians, confined by the concepts of their own cultures, can still discover truths about the past. Through an examination of the constraints of history, accounts of causation and causal interpretations, C. Behan McCullagh argues that although historical descriptions do not mirror the past, they can correlate with it in a regular and definable way. Far from debating only in the abstract and philosophical, the author constructs his argument in numerous concrete (...) historical examples and explores a new position between believing that history perfectly represents the past and that history can tell us nothing true of the past. (shrink)
The paper investigates whether causation is extrinsic in Humean Supervenience in the sense that being caused by is an intrinsic relation between token causes and effects. The underlying goal is to test whether causality is extrinsic for Humeans and intrinsic for anti-Humeans in this sense. I argue that causation is typically extrinsic in HS, but it is intrinsic to event pairs that collectively exhaust almost the whole of history.
The problems, purposes, and methods of history writing have been the subject of debate for almost three millennia. Should history be political or philosophical? Is the writing of history an art or a science? What are the limitations of history? This book is an intriguing collection of views on these and other aspects of history writing by eminent Western historians from early Greece to the end of the eighteenth century. The book contains major texts from (...) 112 historians, both well-known and neglected, ranging from the “mythistories” of Homer and Hesiod to the “reasoned” and “philosophical” accounts of Vico and Voltaire. These texts discuss, for example, theories of historical change, problems of anachronism, narrative, and gender, questions of origins, causation, and historical patterns, and historical criticism. Donald R. Kelley, who selected and arranged the writings, also provides essays and commentary that give background material on the themes of historiography and on the authors included in the book. (shrink)
In most academic and non-academic circles throughout history, the world and its operation have been viewed in terms of cause and effect. The principles of causation have been applied, fruitfully, across the sciences, law, medicine, and in everyday life, despite the lack of any agreed-upon framework for understanding what causation ultimately amounts to. In this engaging and accessible introduction to the topic, Douglas Kutach explains and analyses the most prominent theories and examples in the philosophy of (...) class='Hi'>causation. The book is organized so as to respect the various cross-cutting and interdisciplinary concerns about causation, such as the reducibility of causation, its application to scientific modeling, its connection to influence and laws of nature, and its role in causal explanation. Kutach begins by presenting the four recurring distinctions in the literature on causation, proceeding through an exploration of various accounts of causation including determination, difference making and probability-raising. He concludes by carefully considering their application to the mind-body problem. _Causation_ provides a straightforward and compact survey of contemporary approaches to causation and serves as a friendly and clear guide for anyone interested in exploring the complex jungle of ideas that surround this fundamental philosophical topic. (shrink)
The current consensus view of causation in physics, as commonly held by scientists and philosophers, has several serious problems. It fails to provide an epistemology for the causal knowledge that it claims physics to possess; it is inapplicable in a prominent area of physics (classical thermodynamics); and it is difficult to reconcile with our everyday use of causal concepts and claims. In this dissertation, I use historical examples and philosophical arguments to show that the interventionist account of causation (...) constitutes a promising alternative for a “physically respectable” account of causation. The interventionist account explicates important parts of the experimental practice of physics and important aspects of the ways in which physical theory is used and applied. Moreover, the interventionist account succeeds where the consensus view of causation in physics fails. I argue that the interventionist account provides an epistemology of causal knowledge in physics that is rooted in experiment. On the interventionist view, there is a close link between experiment and the testing of causal claims. I give several examples of experiments from the early history of thermodynamics that scientists used in interventionist-type arguments. I also argue that interventionist claims made in the context of a physical theory can be epistemically justified by reference to the experimental interventions and observations that serve as evidence for the theory. I then show that the interventionist account of causation is well-suited to the patterns of reasoning that are intrinsic to thermodynamic theory. I argue that interventionist reasoning constitutes the structural foundation of thermodynamic theory, and that thermodynamic theory can provide clear answers to meaningful questions about whether or not a certain variable is a cause of another in a given context. Finally, I argue that the interventionist account offers the prospect of a unification of “physically respectable” causation and our everyday notion of causation. I conclude the dissertation by sketching an anti-foundationalist unification of causation, according to which causal reasoning occurs in the same manner in physics as it does in other branches of life and scientific research. (shrink)
Although interest in them is clearly growing, most professional historians do not accept thought experiments as appropriate tools. Advocates of the deliberate use of thought experiments in history argue that without counterfactuals, causal attributions in history do not make sense. Whereas such arguments play upon the meaning of causation in history, this article focuses on the reasoning processes by which historians arrive at causal explanations. First, we discuss the roles thought experiments play in arriving at explanations (...) of both facts and contrasts. Then, we pinpoint the functions thought experiments fulfill in arriving at weighted explanations of contrasts. (shrink)
As frequently pointed out in this discussion, one of the most characteristic features of Mayr's approach to the history of biology stems from the fact that he is dealing to a considerable degree with his own professional history. Furthermore, his main criterion for the selection of historical episodes is their relevance for modern biological theory. As W. F. Bynum and others have noted, the general impression of his reviewers is that “one of the towering figures of evolutionary biology (...) has now written a towering history of his discipline.”138 Bynum is here referring to The Growth of Biological Thought, but this observation holds equally true for Mayr's other historical writings: One must surely read this book [One Long Argument] not only for its content in itself, but for what it tells of its author. And certainly as one does so, one comes away full-handed. Many, if not all, of the disputes and controversies that have driven Mayr through his long intellectual life reappear, stated as forcefully and elegantly as ever.139Up to this point, most reviewers agree; the bone of contention is, rather, how to evaluate Mayr's historical work, considering this observation. The two related characteristics of his work-I will call them subjectivity and presentism-stand in opposition to a widespread approach in the history of science exemplified by Kuhn's suggestion that “insofar as possible..., the historian should set aside the science that he knows. His science should be learned from the textbooks and journals of the period he studies.”140 There are, however, historians who consider the close connection between Mayr and the subject matter of his historical studies to be an advantage.141On the other hand, it is assumed that the connection between past and present must result in a distortion of the historical truth and lead to a historiographical fallacy, commonly referred to as “Whig history”. Herbert Butterfield, who in 1931 gave the term its now generally accepted meaning, believed that “real historical understanding is not achieved by the subordination of the past to the present, but rather by our making the past our present and attempting to see life with the eyes of another century than our own”142. Unfortunately, Butterfield's definition of what he considers Whig history remains somewhat vague, and modern authors have emphasized what they consider most important. Butterfield's “subordination of the past to the present” is referred to in respect to the selection of subjects (there are more biographies of Charles Darwin than of, let's say, Louis Agassiz),143 to the evaluation of historical authors,144 or, more generally, to all kinds of histories “with one eye, so to speak, upon the present.”145 The underlying tendency of Whig historians is to produce a “historical account told from the viewpoint of those in power,”146 leading to a “glorification of the present.”147 It is obvious that Mayr's strongly presentist approach to the history of biology can be called Whiggish, if we apply the criteria of “selection” or “reference.” However, it might be worth mentioning that the program of writing a strictly historicist account of the history of science is challenged by various authors.148 For Mayr, it is not only legitimate but necessary to compare the present situation with the past. “Whiggish” is only the evaluation of an author in terms of our time.149I cannot discuss the Whit/anti-Whig controversy in any detail here, apart from saying that Mayr has defended himself rather extensively against the charges of being Whiggish.150 Nevertheless, it may be useful to touch on some of the criticisms that are predominant in reviews of his writings. First, we encounter the notion that historians can write a true and convincing historical account only if they have no personal interest or interpretation of their own; Mayr, on the other hand, because he “has such strong interpretations of his own, ... cannot possibly convince everyone that he is right about everything.”151 It makes one wonder, what historian has ever been able to convince everyone that he or she is right about everything? But apart from this peculiar idea, it unquestionably poses certain dangers if the subject matter of historical scrutiny and the author are identical. At the same time, this identity brings certain advantages with it, especially firsthand experiences of the period in discussion. Whether these personal memories ultimately result in a distorted picture of the past has to be decided in every particular instance. The notion that a scientific study can be conducted by a completely detached observer from a neutral standpoint has been shown to be impossible in physics, and it is also an illusion in historiography. The question is not whether, but which kind of interest are the underlying motivation for a historian. At this point, Mayr is ahead of his critics when he suggests that our understanding of the past always has a subjective component: The main reason, however, why histories are in constant need of revision is that at any given time they merely reflect the present state of understanding; they depend on how the author interpreted the current zeitgeist of biology and on his own conceptual framework and background. Thus, by necessity the writing of history is subjective and ephemeral.152Second, the temporal proximity between the event and the historical analysis makes difficulties inevitable and will finally result in certain false assessments. But this applies to all historians when they discuss recent problems, regardless of whether they are personally involved or not: As long as the battle between Darwinism and Lamarckism was raging, it was quite impossible to undertake an unbiased evaluation of Lamarck. ...[The] definite refutation of Lamarck's theory of evolutionary causation clears the air. We can now study him without bias and emotion and give him the attention that this major figure in the history of biology clearly deserves.153Third, Mayr is primarily interested in biological problems and not, for instance, historiographical, sociological, or psychological questions. Several authors have remarked that since the beginning of the professionalization of the history of science in the 1960s, a rift between two groups has developed, resulting from the heterogeneous professional backgrounds and interests of the people involved: the authors who were originally biologists and became interested in the history of their discipline only later on, and the authors who were trained as historians.154 Whereas the first group, the “biologists,” tend to be laymen in history proper, the “historians” are in most cases laymen in biology. Different professional backgrounds obviously shape the historical perspective in both groups, but neither approach is necessarily superior. The great number of important books in the history of biology written by “biologist” documents how valuable this point of view can be. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the writings of biologists in the history of science tend to have a strong “internalist” tendency and often neglect the professional, cultural, and political context of science. Mayr's approach is that of a “biologist”; it is “internalist,” and typical for scientists who turn to the history of their discipline.I want to conclude my analysis with a quotation from a review by Douglas J. Futuyma, which gives a perceptive glimpse of Mayr's personality and style: One cannot help standing in awe of the germanic capacity for vast, allembracing synthesis: consider the lifelong devotion of Goethe to Faust, or Wagner's integration of the arts into a Gesamtkunstwerk in which all of human history and experience is wrought into epic myth. It is perhaps in this tradition that Ernst Mayr's The Growth of Biological Thought stands: a history of all of biology, a Ring des Nibelungen complete with leitmotivs such as the failures of reductionism, the struggle of biology for independence from physics, and the liberation of population thinking from the bounds of essentialism.155 Within this style of thinking Mayr has “to offer...nothing less than a vision of biology that places neodarwinian evolutionary theory firmly at the centre.”156 There may be other visions of biology, but few of them have as indefatigable and able representatives as Darwinism has in Ernst Mayr. (shrink)
1. Introduction: a look back at the reasons vs. causes debate. 2. The interventionist account of causation. 3. Four objections to interventionism. 4. The counterfactual analysis of event causation. 5. The role of free agency. 6. Causality in the human sciences. -- The reasons vs. causes debate reached its peak about 40 years ago. Hempel and Dray had debated the nature of historical explanation and the broader issue of whether explanations that cite an agent’s reasons are causal or (...) not. Melden, Peters, Winch, Kenny and Anscombe had contributed their anticausal conceptions. The neo-Wittgensteinians seemed to be winning the day when in 1963 Donald Davidson published his seminal paper “Actions, Reasons, and Causes”. Davidson’s paper devastated the Wittgensteinian camp. It contained, among other things, a powerful attack on the logical connection argument. Davidson argued that the existence of a logical or conceptual connection between descriptions can never eliminate a causal relation, which holds between events simpliciter, not between events under certain descriptions. Davidson maintained that in a way, reasons can be causes. When somebody acts for a certain reason, his intentional attitudes, or rather changes in his attitudes, cause his bodily movements. Davidson also argued that rationalization is a species of causal explanation. For the definition of action, he argued that intentional actions are bodily movements caused in the right way by beliefs and desires that rationalize them. Davidson’s paper paved the way for causal theories of action, which superseded neo-Wittgensteinian analyses in the following decades. The causal theory was rapidly adopted by Alvin Goldman, David Armstrong, Paul Churchland, Myles Brand and many others, entering the mainstream and dominating the philosophy of action to this very day. In 1971 Georg Henrik von Wright published his book "Explanation and Understanding". The second chapter did not deal with agency, but with causation. It developed a new account of causation, the interventionist or experimentalist account. Focusing on causation, von Wright remedied a major shortcoming of the reasons vs. causes debate. The concept of causality, and the nature of the causal relation, received little attention in this debate, a fact that holds true for both camps. Mostly it was simply taken for granted that, as Hempel had declared, “causal explanation is a special type of deductive-nomological explanation”. One camp then aligned intentional explanations with D-N explanations, while the other camp insisted on their disparity. So strictly speaking, the label “reasons/causes debate” was a misnomer. The controversy dealt primarily with the question as to whether intentional explanations can take the form of D-N explanations, while the notion of causation, and the metaphysics of the causal relation, were left obscured. With von Wright’s new approach, the situation changed. Von Wright was primarily concerned with causation, but his approach contained an implicit attack on the causal theory of action as well. His core idea was that the notion of causality is intimately linked with, or even derived from, the notion of intentionally making something happen. Other philosophers, even Hume, had considered such a connection before, but often just to reject this view, regarding it as a kind of myth belonging to the infancy of the human mind. Von Wright took the idea seriously. He submitted the analysis that p is the cause of q if and only if by doing p we could bring about q. The causal theory of action was also concerned with the relation between causation and agency, to which its name bears witness. The causal theory of action holds that actions are bodily movements with a certain causal history. This is why von Wright’s account constituted a momentous challenge to the causal theory: it reversed the direction of conceptual dependency between both notions. Davidson and his followers tried to define what an intentional action is by using the notion of causation. The causal condition which the causal theory sets is part of the definition of “doing something intentionally”. Von Wright claimed that the conceptual dependency is the other way round. He used the notions of doing, and bringing about, to explain what causal relations are. So, instead of a causal theory of action, he advocated an agency theory of causation, as it may be dubbed. It is remarkable how seldom this clash of opinions about conceptual primacy is reflected in the literature. There are few exceptions: Fred Stoutland noticed the conflict, and he published a number of papers in which he compared Davidson’s and von Wright’s views. Von Wright’s book "Explanation and Understanding" was widely read and discussed in the seventies, especially in Europe. But it strikes me that especially in North America, where the causal theory of action became the orthodoxy of the day, von Wright’s challenge went largely unnoticed. Even Davidson did not seem to take it seriously. He nowhere takes notice of the interventionist theory of causation, while he does discuss von Wright’s earlier book "Norm and Action". As is well-known, Davidson favoured an alternative account of causation, based on “the principle of the nomological character of causality”, as he somewhat clumsily called it, or, later and less clumsily, “the cause-law thesis”. Davidson’s firm adherence to a nomological theory of causality may explain why he did not take much interest in alternative accounts. [...] -/- . 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This article investigates the relationship between Hume’s causal philosophy and Newton ’s philosophy of nature. I claim that Newton ’s experimentalist methodology in gravity research is an important background for understanding Hume’s conception of causality: Hume sees the relation of cause and effect as not being founded on a priori reasoning, similar to the way that Newton criticized non - empirical hypotheses about the properties of gravity. However, according to Hume’s criteria of causal inference, the law of universal gravitation is (...) not a complete causal law, since it does not include a reference either to contiguity or to temporal priority. It is still argued that because of the empirical success of Newton ’s theory—the law is a statement of an exceptionless repetition—Hume gives his support to it in interpreting gravity force instrumentally as if it bore a causal relation to motion. (shrink)
P. Kyle Stanford - The Manifest Connection: Causation, Meaning, and David Hume - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40:3 Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.3 339-360 The Manifest Connection: Causation, Meaning, and David Hume P. Kyle Stanford 1. Introduction exciting recent hume scholarship has challenged the traditional view that Hume's theory of meaning leads him to deny the very intelligibility or coherence of supposing that there are objective causal powers or intrinsic necessary connections between (...) causally related entities. Influential recent interpretations have variously held that Hume himself accepted the existence of such powers and connections, that he was genuinely agnostic about them, or that he denied their existence while nonetheless holding it to be a perfectly coherent possibility, indeed one that we routinely think actual. In this paper I will argue against all three of these lines of interpretation and in favor of what I consider a neglected alternative: that Hume rejects the existence of objective necessary connections or causal powers as literally incoherent or meaningless, but on subtle and sophisticated semantic grounds, rather than simplistic ones. I find support for this semantic reading and against the alternatives not only in passages whose significance to the debate is widely appreciated, but also in Hume's discussions "Of Liberty and Necessity" and "Of the Immateriality of the Soul." The.. (shrink)
American biologists in the late nineteenth century pioneered the descriptive-comparative study of all cell divisions from zygote to gastrulation -- the cell lineage. Data from cell lineages were crucial to evolutionary and developmental questions of the day. One of the main questions was the ultimate causation of developmental patterns -- historical or mechanical. E. B. Wilson's groundbreaking lineage work on the polychaete worm Nereis in 1892 set the stage for (1) an attack on Haeckel's phylogenetic-historical notion of recapitulation and (...) (2) support for mechanistic explanations of cleavage patterns. As more lineage work -- especially Lillie's work on "Unio" and Conklin's on "Crepidula" -- became available in the mid-late 1890s, mechanism was tempered with more evolutionary, homology-based views. However, as I show by focusing on three major issues -- homology, body plans and life history -- these views were primarily based on the precocious segregation and prospective significance -- what the cell became not what it was. Even on issues like adaptation, most lineagists argued teleologically from the adult backward. Most cell lineage workers, by 1900, were to varying degrees mechanist/experimentalist and recapitulationist simultaneously. The exception was E. G. Conklin, whose views were more akin to a Darwinian evolutionist than either mechanist or recapitulationist. Lineage work eventually declined and by 1907 published accounts of new lineages had basically stopped. I argue that established workers and younger researchers stopped wanting to take on cell lineage projects because the general patterns were the same for all the spiralians while the specifics showed too much variation. It was hard to theoretically encompass or analyze the minutiae of variation in a recapitulationist or mechanist framework. The only established worker who continued to do comparative lineage studies was E. G. Conklin, perhaps because the variation could best be accommodated by Darwinian evolution. (shrink)
This article reflects on the relationship between historical writing and enquiry and philosophy, and more particularly the manner in which the pursuit of a particular natural philosophy can influence historical narratives. The article begins with a comparison of Roman and Greek approaches to history, employing a distinction between narrative and logic. It goes on to consider the impact of Christianity, the relationship between enlightenment narratives and philosophical developments regarding the nature of causation, and the Hegel/Marx critique of the (...) kinds of empiricism associated with Hume. The article ends by considering the counterfactual historical analysis and the proper relationship between history and philosophy for modern historians. (shrink)