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Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World

Princeton University Press (1984)

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  1. Justifying Sociological Knowledge: From Realism to Interpretation.Isaac Reed - 2008 - Sociological Theory 26 (2):101-129.
    In the context of calls for "postpositivist" sociology, realism has emerged as a powerful and compelling epistemology for social science. In transferring and transforming scientific realism --a philosophy of natural science--into a justificatory discourse for social science, realism splits into two parts: a strict, highly naturalistic realism and a reflexive, more mediated, and critical realism. Both forms of realism, however, suffer from conceptual ambiguities, omissions, and elisions that make them an inappropriate epistemology for social science. Examination of these problems in (...)
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  • Chasing Shadows: Natural Selection and Adaptation.D. M. Walsh - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 31 (1):135-153.
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  • Ulcers and Bacteria I: Discovery and Acceptance.Paul Thagard - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 29 (1):107-136.
    In 1983, Dr. J. Robin Warren and Dr. Barry Marshall reported finding a new kind of bacteria in the stomachs of people with gastritis. Warren and Marshall were soon led to the hypothesis that peptic ulcers are generally caused, not by excess acidity or stress, but by a bacterial infection. Initially, this hypothesis was viewed as preposterous, and it is still somewhat controversial. In 1994, however, a U. S. National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Panel concluded that infection appears to (...)
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  • Ulcers and Bacteria I: Discovery and Acceptance.Paul Thagard - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 29 (1):107-136.
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  • Semirealism.Anjan Chakravartty - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):391-408.
    The intuition of the naı¨ve realist, miracle arguments notwithstanding, is countered forcefully by a host of considerations, including the possibility of underdetermination, and criticisms of abductive inferences to explanatory hypotheses. Some have suggested that an induction may be performed, from the perspective of present theories, on their predecessors. Past theories are thought to be false, strictly speaking; it is thus likely that present-day theories are also false, and will be taken as such at an appropriate future time.
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  • Exclusion in Morality.Lei Zhong - 2016 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 93 (2):275-290.
    Recently some philosophers (e.g. Shafer-Landau 2003; Wedgwood 2007) suggested an exclusion problem for moral non-naturalism, which is similar to the exclusion problem in philosophy of mind. In this article, the author aims to advance the discussion of exclusion in morality by investigating two influential solutions to the exclusion problem: the autonomy solution and the overdetermination solution. The author attempts to show that the moral non-naturalist can solve the exclusion problem in a way that is different from the approach to solving (...)
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  • Propensities and Probabilities.Nuel Belnap - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38 (3):593-625.
    Popper’s introduction of ‘‘propensity’’ was intended to provide a solid conceptual foundation for objective single-case probabilities. By considering the partly opposed contributions of Humphreys and Miller and Salmon, it is argued that when properly understood, propensities can in fact be understood as objective single-case causal probabilities of transitions between concrete events. The chief claim is that propensities are well-explicated by describing how they fit into the existing formal theory of branching space-times, which is simultaneously indeterministic and causal. Several problematic examples, (...)
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  • Do the Causal Principles of Modern Physics Contradict Causal Anti-Fundamentalism?John D. Norton - manuscript
    In Norton(2003), it was urged that the world does not conform at a fundamental level to some robust principle of causality. To defend this view, I now argue that the causal notions and principles of modern physics do not express some universal causal principle, brought to light by discoveries in physics. Rather they merely assert that, according to relativity theory, spacetime has an invariant velocity, that of light; and that theories of matter admit no propagations faster than light.
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  • It's Just a Feeling: Why Economic Models Do Not Explain.Anna Alexandrova & Robert Northcott - 2013 - Journal of Economic Methodology 20 (3):262 - 267.
    Julian Reiss correctly identified a trilemma about economic models: we cannot maintain that they are false, but nevertheless explain and that only true accounts explain. In this reply we give reasons to reject the second premise ? that economic models explain. Intuitions to the contrary should be distrusted.
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  • What is Wrong with the Miracle Argument??☆.Martin Carrier - 1991 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 22 (1):23-36.
    One of the arguments advanced in favor of scientific realism is the 'miracle argument'. It says that for the anti-realist the predictive success of science appears as an utter miracle. This argument indeed has some prima facie plausibility, provided that it is sharpened by construing "predictive success" as prediction of previously unknown laws and the occurrence of a consilience of inductions. Still, the history of science teaches us that it is possible to arrive at predictive success in this sense by (...)
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  • Causal Laws Are Objectifications of Inductive Schemes.Wolfgang Spohn - 1993 - In J. Dubucs (ed.), Philosophy of Probability. Kluwer, Dordrecht. pp. 223-252.
    And this paper is an attempt to say precisely how, thus addressing a philosophical problem which is commonly taken to be a serious one. It does so, however, in quite an idiosyncratic way. It is based on the account of inductive schemes I have given in (1988) and (1990a) and on the conception of causation I have presented in (1980), (1983), and (1990b), and it intends to fill one of many gaps which have been left by these papers. Still, I (...)
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  • Because Without Cause: Non-Causal Explanations in Science and Mathematics.Mark Povich & Carl F. Craver - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (3):422-426.
    Lange’s collection of expanded, mostly previously published essays, packed with numerous, beautiful examples of putatively non-causal explanations from biology, physics, and mathematics, challenges the increasingly ossified causal consensus about scientific explanation, and, in so doing, launches a new field of philosophic investigation. However, those who embraced causal monism about explanation have done so because appeal to causal factors sorts good from bad scientific explanations and because the explanatory force of good explanations seems to derive from revealing the relevant causal (or (...)
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  • On Reichenbach's Principle of the Common Cause.Wolfgang Spohn - unknown
    This paper deals with Hans Reichenbach's common cause principle. It was propounded by him in, and has been developed and widely applied by Wesley Salmon, e.g. in and. Thus, it has become one of the focal points of the continuing discussion of causation. The paper addresses five questions. Section 1 asks: What does the principle say? And section 2 asks: What is its philosophical significance? The most important question, of course, is this: Is the principle true? To answer that question, (...)
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  • Causation, Coherence and Concepts : A Collection of Essays.Wolfgang Spohn - unknown
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  • Bayesian Nets Are All There Is To Causal Dependence.Wolfgang Spohn - unknown
    The paper displays the similarity between the theory of probabilistic causation developed by Glymour et al. since 1983 and mine developed since 1976: the core of both is that causal graphs are Bayesian nets. The similarity extends to the treatment of actions or interventions in the two theories. But there is also a crucial difference. Glymour et al. take causal dependencies as primitive and argue them to behave like Bayesian nets under wide circumstances. By contrast, I argue the behavior of (...)
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  • A Tale of Two Effects.Christopher Hitchcock - 2001 - Philosophical Review 110 (3):361-396.
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  • Levels of Reasons Why and Answers to Why Questions.Insa Lawler - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (1):168-177.
    According to Skow (2016, 2017), correct answers to why-questions only cite causes or grounds, but not non-accidental regularities. Accounts that cite non-accidental regularities typically confuse second-level reasons with first-level reasons. Only causes and grounds are first-level reasons why. Non-accidental regularities are second-level reasons why. I first show that Skow's arguments for the accusation of confusion depend on the independent thesis that only citations of first-level reasons why are (parts of) answers to why-questions. Then, I argue that this thesis is false. (...)
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  • The Mishap at Reichenbach Fall: Singular Vs. General Causation.Christopher Read Hitchcock - 1995 - Philosophical Studies 78 (3):257 - 291.
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  • Productivity, Relevance and Natural Selection.Stuart Glennan - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (3):325-339.
    Recent papers by a number of philosophers have been concerned with the question of whether natural selection is a causal process, and if it is, whether the causes of selection are properties of individuals or properties of populations. I shall argue that much confusion in this debate arises because of a failure to distinguish between causal productivity and causal relevance. Causal productivity is a relation that holds between events connected via continuous causal processes, while causal relevance is a relationship that (...)
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  • Scientific Realism Made Effective.Porter Williams - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):209-237.
    I argue that a common philosophical approach to the interpretation of physical theories—particularly quantum field theories—has led philosophers astray. It has driven many to declare the quantum field theories employed by practicing physicists, so-called ‘effective field theories’, to be unfit for philosophical interpretation. In particular, such theories have been deemed unable to support a realist interpretation. I argue that these claims are mistaken: attending to the manner in which these theories are employed in physical practice, I show that interpreting effective (...)
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  • Is There A Monist Theory of Causal and Non-Causal Explanations? The Counterfactual Theory of Scientific Explanation.Alexander Reutlinger - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (5):733-745.
    The goal of this paper is to develop a counterfactual theory of explanation. The CTE provides a monist framework for causal and non-causal explanations, according to which both causal and non-causal explanations are explanatory by virtue of revealing counterfactual dependencies between the explanandum and the explanans. I argue that the CTE is applicable to two paradigmatic examples of non-causal explanations: Euler’s explanation and renormalization group explanations of universality.
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  • Causal Relations and Explanatory Strategies in Physics.Andrew Wayne - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (1):75-89.
    Many philosophers now regard causal approaches to explanation as highly promising, even in physics. This is due in large part to James Woodward's influential argument that a wide variety of scientific explanations are causal, based on his interventionist approach to causation. This article argues that some derivations describing causal relations and satisfying Woodward's criteria for causal explanation fail to be explanatory. Further, causal relations are unnecessary for a range of explanations, widespread in physics, involving highly idealized models. These constitute significant (...)
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  • Can There Be a Bayesian Explanationism? On the Prospects of a Productive Partnership.Frank Cabrera - 2017 - Synthese 194 (4):1245–1272.
    In this paper, I consider the relationship between Inference to the Best Explanation and Bayesianism, both of which are well-known accounts of the nature of scientific inference. In Sect. 2, I give a brief overview of Bayesianism and IBE. In Sect. 3, I argue that IBE in its most prominently defended forms is difficult to reconcile with Bayesianism because not all of the items that feature on popular lists of “explanatory virtues”—by means of which IBE ranks competing explanations—have confirmational import. (...)
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  • Causal Powers and Social Ontology.Tobias Hansson Wahlberg - forthcoming - Synthese.
    Over the last few decades, philosophers and social scientists have applied the so-called powers ontology to the social domain. I argue that this application is highly problematic: many of the alleged powers in the social realm violate the intrinsicality condition, and those that can be coherently taken to be intrinsic to their bearers are arguably causally redundant. I end the paper by offering a diagnosis of why philosophers and social scientists have been tempted to think that there are powers in (...)
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  • Ephemeral Mechanisms and Historical Explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2010 - Erkenntnis 72 (2):251-266.
    While much of the recent literature on mechanisms has emphasized the superiority of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation over laws and nomological explanation, paradigmatic mechanisms—e.g., clocks or synapses—actually exhibit a great deal of stability in their behavior. And while mechanisms of this kind are certainly of great importance, there are many events that do not occur as a consequence of the operation of stable mechanisms. Events of natural and human history are often the consequence of causal processes that are ephemeral and (...)
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  • Mechanisms, Causes, and the Layered Model of the World.Stuart Glennan - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (2):362-381.
    Most philosophical accounts of causation take causal relations to obtain between individuals and events in virtue of nomological relations between properties of these individuals and events. Such views fail to take into account the consequences of the fact that in general the properties of individuals and events will depend upon mechanisms that realize those properties. In this paper I attempt to rectify this failure, and in so doing to provide an account of the causal relevance of higher-level properties. I do (...)
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  • Information Channels and Biomarkers of Disease.Phyllis Illari & Federica Russo - 2016 - Topoi 35 (1):175-190.
    Current research in molecular epidemiology uses biomarkers to model the different disease phases from environmental exposure, to early clinical changes, to development of disease. The hope is to get a better understanding of the causal impact of a number of pollutants and chemicals on several diseases, including cancer and allergies. In a recent paper Russo and Williamson address the question of what evidential elements enter the conceptualisation and modelling stages of this type of biomarkers research. Recent research in causality has (...)
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  • Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
    Philosophers of science typically associate the causal-mechanical view of scientific explanation with the work of Railton and Salmon. In this paper I shall argue that the defects of this view arise from an inadequate analysis of the concept of mechanism. I contrast Salmon's account of mechanisms in terms of the causal nexus with my own account of mechanisms, in which mechanisms are viewed as complex systems. After describing these two concepts of mechanism, I show how the complex-systems approach avoids certain (...)
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  • Models in Systems Medicine.Jon Williamson - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (47):429-469.
    Systems medicine is a promising new paradigm for discovering associations, causal relationships and mechanisms in medicine. But it faces some tough challenges that arise from the use of big data: in particular, the problem of how to integrate evidence and the problem of how to structure the development of models. I argue that objective Bayesian models offer one way of tackling the evidence integration problem. I also offer a general methodology for structuring the development of models, within which the objective (...)
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  • Venomous Dinosaurs and Rear-Fanged Snakes: Homology and Homoplasy Characterized. [REVIEW]Adrian Currie - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (3):701-727.
    I develop an account of homology and homoplasy drawing on their use in biological inference and explanation. Biologists call on homology and homoplasy to infer character states, support adaptationist explanations, identify evolutionary novelties and hypothesize phylogenetic relationships. In these contexts, the concepts must be understood phylogenetically and kept separate: as they play divergent roles, overlap between the two ought to be avoided. I use these considerations to criticize an otherwise attractive view defended by Gould, Hall, and Ramsey & Peterson. By (...)
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  • Representational Content and the Keys to Success.Justin Fisher - unknown
    I consider the question of whether success-linked theories of content – theories like those of Ramsey (1927), Millikan (1984) and Blackburn (2005) which take there to be a definitional link between representational content and behavioral success – are consistent with the plausible claim that we can use content-attributions to explain behavioral success. Peter Godfrey-Smith (1996) argues that success-linked theories of content are too closely linked to success to be able to explain it. Against this, I present a plausible account of (...)
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  • Moving Molecules Above the Scientific Horizon: On Perrin's Case for Realism. [REVIEW]Stathis Psillos - 2011 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 42 (2):339-363.
    This paper aims to cast light on the reasons that explain the shift of opinion—from scepticism to realism—concerning the reality of atoms and molecules in the beginning of the twentieth century, in light of Jean Perrin’s theoretical and experimental work on the Brownian movement. The story told has some rather interesting repercussions for the rationality of accepting the reality of explanatory posits. Section 2 presents the key philosophical debate concerning the role and status of explanatory hypotheses c. 1900, focusing on (...)
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  • On Levels of Cognitive Modeling.Ron Sun, Andrew Coward & Michael J. Zenzen - 2005 - Philosophical Psychology 18 (5):613-637.
    The article first addresses the importance of cognitive modeling, in terms of its value to cognitive science (as well as other social and behavioral sciences). In particular, it emphasizes the use of cognitive architectures in this undertaking. Based on this approach, the article addresses, in detail, the idea of a multi-level approach that ranges from social to neural levels. In physical sciences, a rigorous set of theories is a hierarchy of descriptions/explanations, in which causal relationships among entities at a high (...)
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  • Theoretical Status of Computational Cognitive Modeling.Ron Sun - unknown
    This article explores the view that computational models of cognition may constitute valid theories of cognition, often in the full sense of the term ‘‘theory”. In this discussion, this article examines various (existent or possible) positions on this issue and argues in favor of the view above. It also connects this issue with a number of other relevant issues, such as the general relationship between theory and data, the validation of models, and the practical benefits of computational modeling. All the (...)
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  • Criteria for an Effective Theory of Consciousness and Some Preliminary Attempts.Ron Sun - 2004 - Consciousness and Cognition 13 (2):268-301.
    In the physical sciences a rigorous theory is a hierarchy of descriptions in which causal relationships between many general types of entity at a phenomenological level can be derived from causal relationships between smaller numbers of simpler entities at more detailed levels. The hierarchy of descriptions resembles the modular hierarchy created in electronic systems in order to be able to modify a complex functionality without excessive side effects. Such a hierarchy would make it possible to establish a rigorous scientific theory (...)
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  • Causal Reasoning in Economics: A Selective Exploration of Semantic, Epistemic and Dynamical Aspects.François Claveau - 2013 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 6 (2):122.
    Economists reason causally. Like many other scientists, they aim at formulating justified causal claims about their object of study. This thesis contributes to our understanding of how causal reasoning proceeds in economics. By using the research on the causes of unemployment as a case study, three questions are adressed. What are the meanings of causal claims? How can a causal claim be adequately supported by evidence? How are causal beliefs affected by incoming facts? In the process of answering these semantic, (...)
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  • Understanding Phenomena.Christoph Kelp - 2015 - Synthese 192 (12):3799-3816.
    The literature on the nature of understanding can be divided into two broad camps. Explanationists believe that it is knowledge of explanations that is key to understanding. In contrast, their manipulationist rivals maintain that understanding essentially involves an ability to manipulate certain representations. The aim of this paper is to provide a novel knowledge based account of understanding. More specifically, it proposes an account of maximal understanding of a given phenomenon in terms of fully comprehensive and maximally well-connected knowledge of (...)
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  • Explanatory Generalizations, Part I: A Counterfactual Account.James Woodward & Christopher Hitchcock - 2003 - Noûs 37 (1):1–24.
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  • Common Cause Completability of Non-Classical Probability Spaces.Zalán Gyenis & Miklós Rédei - unknown
    We prove that under some technical assumptions on a general, non-classical probability space, the probability space is extendible into a larger probability space that is common cause closed in the sense of containing a common cause of every correlation between elements in the space. It is argued that the philosophical significance of this common cause completability result is that it allows the defence of the Common Cause Principle against certain attempts of falsification. Some open problems concerning possible strengthening of the (...)
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  • No Revolution Necessary: Neural Mechanisms for Economics.Carl F. Craver & Anna Alexandrova - 2008 - Economics and Philosophy 24 (3):381-406.
    We argue that neuroeconomics should be a mechanistic science. We defend this view as preferable both to a revolutionary perspective, according to which classical economics is eliminated in favour of neuroeconomics, and to a classical economic perspective, according to which economics is insulated from facts about psychology and neuroscience. We argue that, like other mechanistic sciences, neuroeconomics will earn its keep to the extent that it either reconfigures how economists think about decision-making or how neuroscientists think about brain mechanisms underlying (...)
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  • An Analysis of Probabilistic Causation in Dichotomous Structures.Frederick S. Elett & David P. Ericson - 1986 - Synthese 67 (2):175-193.
    During the past decades several philosophers of science and social scientists have been interested in the problems of causation. Recently attention has been given to probabilistic causation in dichotomous causal systems. The paper uses the basic features of probabilistic causation to argue that the causal modeling approaches developed by such researchers as Blalock (1964) and Duncan (1975) can provide, when an additional assumption is added, adequate qualitative measures of one variable causal influence upon another. Finally, some of the difficulties and (...)
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  • The Explanation Paradox.Julian Reiss - 2012 - Journal of Economic Methodology 19 (1):43-62.
    This paper examines mathematical models in economics and observes that three mutually inconsistent hypotheses concerning models and explanation are widely held: (1) economic models are false; (2) economic models are nevertheless explanatory; and (3) only true accounts explain. Commentators have typically resolved the paradox by rejecting either one of these hypotheses. I will argue that none of the proposed resolutions work and conclude that therefore the paradox is genuine and likely to stay.
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  • Explanation in Biology: Reduction, Pluralism, and Explanatory Aims.Ingo Brigandt - 2011 - Science & Education 22 (1):69-91.
    This essay analyzes and develops recent views about explanation in biology. Philosophers of biology have parted with the received deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation primarily by attempting to capture actual biological theorizing and practice. This includes an endorsement of different kinds of explanation (e.g., mathematical and causal-mechanistic), a joint study of discovery and explanation, and an abandonment of models of theory reduction in favor of accounts of explanatory reduction. Of particular current interest are philosophical accounts of complex explanations that appeal (...)
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  • Characterizing Common Cause Closed Probability Spaces.Zalán Gyenis & Miklós Rédei - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (3):393-409.
    A classical probability measure space was defined in earlier papers \cite{Hofer-Redei-Szabo1999}, \cite{Gyenis-Redei2004} to be common cause closed if it contains a Reichenbachian common cause of every correlation in it, and common cause incomplete otherwise. It is shown that a classical probability measure space is common cause incomplete if and only if it contains more than one atom. Furthermore, it is shown that every probability space can be embedded into a common cause closed one; which entails that every classical probability space (...)
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  • Agent-Based Computational Models and Generative Social Science.Joshua M. Epstein - 1999 - Complexity 4 (5):41-60.
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  • Theories, Models and Constraints.F. Weinert - 1999 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 30 (2):303-333.
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  • Mental Causation.Karen Bennett - 2007 - Philosophy Compass 2 (2):316-337.
    Concerns about ‘mental causation’ are concerns about how it is possible for mental states to cause anything to happen. How does what we believe, want, see, feel, hope, or dread manage to cause us to act? Certain positions on the mind-body problem—including some forms of physicalism—make such causation look highly problematic. This entry sketches several of the main reasons to worry, and raises some questions for further investigation.
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  • Reichenbach’s Cubical Universe and the Problem of the External World.Elliott Sober - 2011 - Synthese 181 (1):3-21.
    This paper is a sympathetic critique of the argument that Reichenbach develops in Chap. 2 of Experience and Prediction for the thesis that sense experience justifies belief in the existence of an external world. After discussing his attack on the positivist theory of meaning, I describe the probability ideas that Reichenbach presents. I argue that Reichenbach begins with an argument grounded in the Law of Likelihood but that he then endorses a different argument that involves prior probabilities. I try to (...)
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  • Causal Realism: Events and Processes.Anjan Chakravartty - 2005 - Erkenntnis 63 (1):7-31.
    Minimally, causal realism (as understood here) is the view that accounts of causation in terms of mere, regular or probabilistic conjunction are unsatisfactory, and that causal phenomena are correctly associated with some form of de re necessity. Classic arguments, however, some of which date back to Sextus Empiricus and have appeared many times since, including famously in Russell, suggest that the very notion of causal realism is incoherent. In this paper I argue that if such objections seem compelling, it is (...)
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  • Understanding the Influence Theory of Causation: A Critique of Strevens.Sungho Choi - 2005 - Erkenntnis 63 (1):101-118.
    In this paper, I will first clarify Lewis’s influence theory of causation by relying on his theory of events. And then I will consider Michael Strevens’s charge against the sufficiency of Lewis’s theory. My claim is that it is legitimate but does not pose as serious a problem for Lewis’s theory as Strevens thinks because Lewis can surmount it by limiting the scope of his theory to causation between concrete events. Michael Strevens raises an alleged counterexample to the necessity of (...)
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