Because without Cause: Non-Causal Explanations in Science and Mathematics

Philosophical Review 127 (3):422-426 (2018)
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Abstract
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 ontic) structures. The taxonomic project of collecting examples and sorting their types is an essential starting place for a theory of non-causal explanation. But the title of Lange’s book requires something further: showing that the putative explanations are, in fact, explanatory and revealing the non-causal source of their explanatory power. This project is incomplete if there are examples of putative non-causal explanations that fit the form but that nobody would accept as explanatory (absent a radical revision of intuitions). Here we provide some reasons for thinking that there are such examples.
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Making Things Happen.Woodward, James

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