Woodward's long awaited book is an attempt to construct a comprehensive account of causation explanation that applies to a wide variety of causal and explanatory claims in different areas of science and everyday life. The book engages some of the relevant literature from other disciplines, as Woodward weaves together examples, counterexamples, criticisms, defenses, objections, and replies into a convincing defense of the core of his theory, which is that we can analyze causation by appeal to the notion of manipulation.
This paper attempts to elucidate three characteristics of causal relationships that are important in biological contexts. Stability has to do with whether a causal relationship continues to hold under changes in background conditions. Proportionality has to do with whether changes in the state of the cause “line up” in the right way with changes in the state of the effect and with whether the cause and effect are characterized in a way that contains irrelevant detail. Specificity is connected both to (...) David Lewis’ notion of “influence” and also with the extent to which a causal relation approximates to the ideal of one cause–one effect. Interrelations among these notions and their possible biological significance are also discussed. (shrink)
This paper describes an alternative to the common view that explanation in the special sciences involves subsumption under laws. According to this alternative, whether or not a generalization can be used to explain has to do with whether it is invariant rather than with whether it is lawful. A generalization is invariant if it is stable or robust in the sense that it would continue to hold under a relevant if it is stable or robust in the sense that it (...) would continue to hold under a relevant class of changes. Unlike lawfulness, invariance comes in degrees and has other features that are well suited to capture the characteristics of explanatory generalizations in the special sciences. For example, a generalization can be invariant even if it has exceptions or holds only over a limited spatio-temporal interval. The notion of invariance can be used to resolve a number of dilemmas that arise in standard treatments of explanatory generalizations in the special sciences. (shrink)
A number of writers, myself included, have recently argued that an “interventionist” treatment of causation of the sort defended in Woodward, 2003 can be used to cast light on so-called “causal exclusion” arguments. This interventionist treatment of causal exclusion has in turn been criticized by other philosophers. This paper responds to these criticisms. It describes an interventionist framework for thinking about causal relationships when supervenience relations are present. I contend that this framework helps us to see that standard arguments for (...) causal exclusion involve mistaken assumptions about what it is appropriate to control for or hold fixed in assessing causal claims. The framework also provides a natural way of capturing the idea that properties that supervene on but that are not identical with realizing properties can be causally efficacious. (shrink)
This paper explores the question of whether all or most explanations in biology are, or ideally should be, ‘mechanistic’. I begin by providing an account of mechanistic explanation, making use of the interventionist ideas about causation I have developed elsewhere. This account emphasizes the way in which mechanistic explanations, at least in the biological sciences, integrate difference-making and spatio-temporal information, and exhibit what I call fine-tunedness of organization. I also emphasize the role played by modularity conditions in mechanistic explanation. I (...) will then argue, in agreement with John Dupré, that, given this account, it is plausible that many biological systems require explanations that are relatively non-mechanical or depart from expectations one associates with the behaviour of machines. (shrink)
This paper discusses some issues concerning the relationship between the mental and the physical, including the so-called causal exclusion argument, within the framework of a broadly interventionist approach to causation.
In this paper I criticize the commonly accepted idea that the generalizations of the special sciences should be construed as ceteris paribus laws. This idea rests on mistaken assumptions about the role of laws in explanation and their relation to causal claims. Moreover, the major proposals in the literature for the analysis of ceteris paribus laws are, on their own terms, complete failures. I sketch a more adequate alternative account of the content of causal generalizations in the special sciences which (...) I argue should replace the ceteris paribus conception. (shrink)
This paper defends an interventionist treatment of mechanisms and contrasts this with Waskan (forthcoming). Interventionism embodies a difference-making conception of causation. I contrast such conceptions with geometrical/mechanical or “actualist” conceptions, associating Waskan’s proposals with the latter. It is argued that geometrical/mechanical conceptions of causation cannot replace difference-making conceptions in characterizing the behavior of mechanisms, but that some of the intuitions behind the geometrical/mechanical approach can be captured by thinking in terms of spatio-temporally organized difference-making information.
Hierarchical Bayesian models (HBMs) provide an account of Bayesian inference in a hierarchically structured hypothesis space. Scientific theories are plausibly regarded as organized into hierarchies in many cases, with higher levels sometimes called ‘paradigms’ and lower levels encoding more specific or concrete hypotheses. Therefore, HBMs provide a useful model for scientific theory change, showing how higher‐level theory change may be driven by the impact of evidence on lower levels. HBMs capture features described in the Kuhnian tradition, particularly the idea that (...) higher‐level theories guide learning at lower levels. In addition, they help resolve certain issues for Bayesians, such as scientific preference for simplicity and the problem of new theories. *Received July 2009; revised October 2009. †To contact the authors, please write to: Leah Henderson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, 32D‐808, Cambridge, MA 02139; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
Manipulablity theories of causation, according to which causes are to be regarded as handles or devices for manipulating effects, have considerable intuitive appeal and are popular among social scientists and statisticians. This article surveys several prominent versions of such theories advocated by philosophers, and the many difficulties they face. Philosophical statements of the manipulationist approach are generally reductionist in aspiration and assign a central role to human action. These contrast with recent discussions employing a broadly manipulationist framework for understanding causation, (...) such as those due to the computer scientist Judea Pearl and others, which are non-reductionist and rely instead on the notion of an intervention. This is simply an appropriately exogenous causal process; it has no essential connection with human action. This interventionist framework manages to avoid at least some of these difficulties faced by traditional philosophical versions of the manipulability theory and helps to clarify the content of causal claims. (shrink)
What is the relationship between, on the one hand, the sorts of causal claims found in the special sciences (and in common sense) and, on the other hand, the world as described by physics? A standard picture goes like this: the fundamental laws of physics are causal laws in the sense that they can be interpreted as telling us that realizations of one set of physical factors or properties “causes” realizations of other properties. Causal claims in the special sciences are (...) then true (to the extent that they are) in virtue of “instantiating” these underlying causal laws; as it is often put, the latter serve as “truth-makers” for the former. The picture is thus one according to which the notion of cause, as it occurs in the special sciences, is reflected or “grounded” in a fairly straightforward and transparent way in a similar notion that occurs in fundamental physics. This paper explores some alternatives to this picture. (shrink)
expose some gaps and difficulties in the argument for the causal Markov condition in our essay ‘Independence, Invariance and the Causal Markov Condition’ (), and we are grateful for the opportunity to reformulate our position. In particular, Cartwright disagrees vigorously with many of the theses we advance about the connection between causation and manipulation. Although we are not persuaded by some of her criticisms, we shall confine ourselves to showing how our central argument can be reconstructed and to casting doubt (...) on Cartwright's claim that the causal Markov condition typically fails when there are indeterministic by-products. Why believe the causal Markov condition? Causation and manipulation The argument Indeterministic by-products and the causal Markov condition The chemical factory counterexample and PM2 Conclusions: causation and manipulability. (shrink)
Issues concerning scientific explanation have been a focus of philosophical attention from Pre- Socratic times through the modern period. However, recent discussion really begins with the development of the Deductive-Nomological (DN) model. This model has had many advocates (including Popper 1935, 1959, Braithwaite 1953, Gardiner, 1959, Nagel 1961) but unquestionably the most detailed and influential statement is due to Carl Hempel (Hempel 1942, 1965, and Hempel & Oppenheim 1948). These papers and the reaction to them have structured subsequent discussion concerning (...) scientific explanation to an extraordinary degree. After some general remarks by way of background and orientation (Section 1), this entry describes the DN model and its extensions, and then turns to some well-known objections (Section 2). It next describes a variety of subsequent attempts to develop alternative models of explanation, including Wesley Salmon's Statistical Relevance (Section 3) and Causal Mechanical (Section 4) models and the Unificationist models due to Michael Friedman and Philip Kitcher (Section 5). Section 6 provides a summary and discusses directions for future work. (shrink)
We use the phrase "moral intuition" to describe the appearance in consciousness of moral judgments or assessments without any awareness of having gone through a conscious reasoning process that produces this assessment. This paper investigates the neural substrates of moral intuition. We propose that moral intuitions are part of a larger set of social intuitions that guide us through complex, highly uncertain and rapidly changing social interactions. Such intuitions are shaped by learning. The neural substrates for moral intuition include fronto-insular, (...) cingulate, and orbito-frontal cortices and associated subcortical structure such as the septum, basil ganglia and amygdala. Understanding the role of these structures undercuts many philosophical doctrines concerning the status of moral intuitions, but vindicates the claim that they can sometimes play a legitimate role in moral decision-making. (shrink)
This paper defends an interventionist account of causation by construing this account as a contribution to methodology, rather than as a set of theses about the ontology or metaphysics of causation. It also uses the topic of causation to raise some more general issues about the relation between, on the one hand, methodology, and, on the other hand, ontology and metaphysics, as these are understood in contemporary philosophical discussion, particularly among so-called analytic metaphysicians. It concludes with the suggestion that issues (...) about the ontology of causation often can be fruitfully reconstrued as methodological proposals. (shrink)
This paper explores some issues about the choice of variables for causal representation and explanation. Depending on which variables a researcher employs, many causal inference procedures and many treatments of causation will reach different conclusions about which causal relationships are present in some system of interest. The assumption of this paper is that some choices of variables are superior to other choices for the purpose of causal analysis. A number of possible criteria for variable choice are described and defended within (...) a broadly interventionist approach to causation. (shrink)
Standard philosophical accounts attempt to understand physical modality either in terms of special metaphysical entities and relationships or in terms of the organization of non-modal information, as in Best Systems Analysis. This paper defends an alternative to both these approaches in which invariance and various independence conditions play a central role. The methodological importance of separating law-claims from claims about initial and boundary conditions is highlighted.
This paper provides a restatement and defense of the data/ phenomena distinction introduced by Jim Bogen and me several decades ago (e.g., Bogen and Woodward, The Philosophical Review, 303–352, 1988). Additional motivation for the distinction is introduced, ideas surrounding the distinction are clarified, and an attempt is made to respond to several criticisms.
This paper explores some issues having to do with the perception of causation. It discusses the role that phenomena that that are associated with causal perception, such as Michottean launching interactions, play within philosophical accounts of causation and also speculates on their possible role in development.
This essay advocates a “functional” approach to causation and causal reasoning: these are to be understood in terms of the goals and purposes of causal thinking. This approach is distinguished from accounts based on metaphysical considerations or on reconstruction of “intuitions.”.
This paper, like its companion explores some ways in which, on the one hand, normative theorizing about causation and causal reasoning and, on the other, empirical psychological investigations into causal cognition can be mutually illuminating. The paper carries out this exploration in connection with a variety of topics—the role of information about the presence of a “physical connection” between cause and effect in causal judgment, the role of “proportionality” in choosing the appropriate “level” of explanation, and the role of mechanism (...) information in causal judgment. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between a manipulability conception of causation and the causal Markov condition (CM). We argue that violations of CM also violate widely shared expectations—implicit in the manipulability conception—having to do with the absence of spontaneous correlations. They also violate expectations concerning the connection between independence or dependence relationships in the presence and absence of interventions.
This paper explores some issues concerning the nature and structure of causal explanation in psychiatry and psychology from the point of view of the “interventionist” theory defended in my book, Making Things Happen. Among the issues is explored is the extent to which candidate causal explanations involving “upper level” or relatively coarse-grained or macroscopic variables such as mental/psychological states (e.g. highly self critical beliefs or low self esteem) or environmental factors (e.g. parental abuse) compete with explanations that instead appeal to (...) underlying, “lower level” or more fine gained neural, genetic, or biochemical mechanisms. (shrink)
This paper explores the idea that laws express relationships between properties or universals as defended in Michael Tooley's recent book Causation: A Realist Approach. I suggest that the most plausible version of realism will take a different form than that advocated by Tooley. According to this alternative, laws are grounded in facts about the capacities and powers of particular systems, rather than facts about relations between universals. The notion of lawfulness is linked to the notion of invariance, rather than to (...) the metaphysical notion of a necessary connection. (shrink)
This article defends the use of interventionist counterfactuals to elucidate causal and explanatory claims against criticisms advanced by James Bogen and Peter Machamer. Against Bogen, I argue that counterfactual claims concerning what would happen under interventions are meaningful and have determinate truth values, even in a deterministic world. I also argue, against both Machamer and Bogen, that we need to appeal to counterfactuals to capture the notions like causal relevance and causal mechanism. Contrary to what both authors suppose, counterfactuals are (...) not "unscientific" - a substantial tradition within statistics and the causal modelling literature makes heavy use of them. (shrink)
Counterfactual theories of causation of the sort presented in Mackie, 1974, and Lewis, 1973 are a familiar part of the philosophical landscape. Such theories are typically advanced primarily as accounts of the metaphysics of causation. But they also raise empirical psychological issues concerning the processes and representations that underlie human causal reasoning. For example, do human subjects internally represent causal claims in terms of counterfactual judgments and when they engage in causal reasoning, does this involves reasoning about counterfactual claims? This (...) paper explores several such issues from a broadly interventionist perspective. (shrink)
This article discusses some philosophical theories of causation and their application to several areas of science. Topics addressed include regularity, counterfactual, and causal process theories of causation; the causal interpretation of structural equation models and directed graphs; independence assumptions in causal reasoning; and the role of causal concepts in physics. In connection with this last topic, this article focuses on the relationship between causal asymmetries, the time-reversal invariance of most fundamental physical laws, and the significance of differences among varieties of (...) differential equations in causal interpretation. It concludes with some remarks about “grounding” special science causal generalizations in physics. (shrink)
The question of the cause of inertial reaction forces and the validity of “Mach's principle” are investigated. A recent claim that the cause of inertial reaction forces can be attributed to an interaction of the electrical charge of elementary particles with the hypothetical quantum mechanical “zero-point” fluctuation electromagnetic field is shown to be untenable. It fails to correspond to reality because the coupling of electric charge to the electromagnetic field cannot be made to mimic plausibly the universal coupling of gravity (...) and inertia to the stress-energy-momentum (i.e., matter) tensor. The gravitational explanation of the origin of inertial forces is then briefly laid out, and various important features of it explored in the last half-century are addressed. (shrink)
We argue that Koch’s postulates are best understood within an interventionist account of causation, in the sense described in Woodward. We show how this treatment helps to resolve interpretive puzzles associated with Koch’s work and how it clarifies the different roles the postulates play in providing useful, yet not universal criteria for disease causation. Our paper is an effort at rational reconstruction; we attempt to show how Koch’s postulates and reasoning make sense and are normatively justified within an interventionist framework (...) and more difficult to understand within alternative frameworks for thinking about causation. (shrink)
This paper examines a recent attempt by Evan Jobe to account for the asymmetric character of many scientific explanations. It is argued that a purported counterexample to Jobe's account, from Clark Glymour, is inconclusive, but that the account faces independent objections. It is also suggested, contrary to Jobe, that the explanatory relation is not always asymmetric. Sometimes a singular sentence C can figure in a DN derivation of another singular sentence E and E can also figure in a DN derivation (...) of C. Yet while we are inclined to regard the first derivation as an explanation of E, we are not inclined to regard the second derivation as an explanation of C. As Sylvain Bromberger pointed out in a now classic article (1966), one can explain the period of a pendulum by reference to its length and yet, although one can give a DN derivation of the length of a pendulum by reference to its period, this derivation does not seem to represent an explanation. Evan Jobe has recently offered an interesting account of such explanatory asymmetries and Clark Glymour has in turn proposed a counterexample which seems to show that Jobe's account is defective. The aim of this paper is two-fold. I shall attempt to show that (a) Glymour's proposed counterexample can be rejected on the grounds that it violates an independently plausible restriction on the role that equalities may play in DN explanation, and that (b) although Glymour's counterexample can be avoided in this way, Jobe's account is defective in several other respects. (shrink)
This article surveys some of the philosophical issues raised by recent experimental work in economics on so-called social preferences. This work raises a number of fascinating methodological and interpretive issues that are of central importance both to economics and to social and political philosophy.