As is well known, Einstein was dissatisfied with the foundation of quantum theory and sought to find a basis for it that would have satisfied his need for a causal explanation. In this paper this abandoned idea is investigated. It is found that it is mathematically not dead at all. More in particular: a quantum mechanical U(1) gauge invariant Dirac equation can be derived from Einstein's gravity field equations. We ask ourselves what it means for physics, the history of physics (...) and for the actual discussion on foundations. (shrink)
(Longer version - work in progress) Various accounts of distinctively mathematical explanations (DMEs) of complex systems have been proposed recently which bypass the contingent causal laws and appeal primarily to mathematical necessities constraining the system. These necessities are considered to be modally exalted in that they obtain with a greater necessity than the ordinary laws of nature (Lange 2016). This paper focuses on DMEs of the number of equilibrium positions of n-tuple pendulum systems and considers several different DMEs of these (...) systems which bypass causal features. It then argues that there is a tension between the modal strength of these DMEs and their epistemic hooking, and we are forced to choose between (a) a purported DME with greater modal strength and wider applicability but poor epistemic hooking, or (b) a narrowly applicable DME with lesser modal strength but with the right kind of epistemic hooking. It also aims to show why some kind of DMEs may be unappealing for working scientists despite their strong modality, and why some DMEs fail to be modally robust because of making ill-informed assumptions about their target systems. The broader goal is to show why such tensions weaken the case for DMEs for pendulum systems in general. (shrink)
Does smoke cause fire or does fire cause smoke? James Woodward’s “Flagpoles anyone? Causal and explanatory asymmetries” argues that various statistical independence relations not only help us to uncover the directions of causal and explanatory relations in our world, but also are the worldly basis of causal and explanatory directions. We raise questions about Woodward’s envisioned epistemology, but our primary focus is on his metaphysics. We argue that any alleged connection between statistical (in)dependence and causal/explanatory direction is contingent, at best. (...) The directions of causal/explanatory relations in our world seem not to depend on the statistical (in)dependence relations in our world (conceived of either as frequency patterns or as relations among chances). Thus, we doubt that statistical (in)dependence relations are the worldly basis of causal and explanatory directions. (shrink)
This article aims to compare notions of progress and evolution in the social theories of Freud and Spencer. It argues 1) that the two authors had similarly complex theories that contained mixed elements of positivism and teleology; 2) In its positivist elements, both authors made use of unified natural laws and, in its teleological aspect, they made use of notions of final cause in that progress and the evolution of civilization was understood as a linear path of progressive development with (...) an aim, 3) that that aim was both ethno- as well as - in Freud?s case in particular? self-centric and, finally, 4) that such understanding of natural law led to ethical commitments to the individual. (shrink)
Supporters of the autonomy of higher-level causation (or explanation) often appeal to proportionality, arguing that higher-level causes are more proportional than their lower-level realizers. Recently, measures based on information theory and causal modeling have been proposed that allow one to shed new light on proportionality and the related notion of specificity. In this paper we apply ideas from this literature to the issue of higher vs. lower-level causation (and explanation). Surprisingly, proportionality turns out to be irrelevant for the question of (...) whether higher-level causes (or explanations) can be autonomous; specificity is a much more informative notion for this purpose. (shrink)
This paper is on the problem of profligate omissions. The problem is that counterfactual definitions of causation identify as a cause anything that could have prevented an effect but that did not actually occur, which is a highly counterintuitive result. Many solutions of this problem appeal to normative, epistemic, pragmatic, or metaphysical considerations. These existing solutions are in some sense substantive. In contrast, this paper concentrates on the semantics of counterfactuals. I propose to replace Strong Centering with Weak Centering. This (...) allows that the actual world is not the only world that is closest to the actual world. As a result, some counterfactuals that would otherwise have been true, turn out to be false. When these counterfactuals concern causation, fewer causal claims are true. In addition to describing steps towards solving the problem of profligate omissions, the proposal captures an abstraction that is shared by many of the existing solutions: depending on how the distance ordering underlying the Weak Centering condition is constructed and interpreted, some of these existing solutions can be recovered. (shrink)
I shall present in this article a double negation account of the distinction between causes and background conditions. Such an account will be based on the idea that, unlike causes, background conditions allow for certain effects by way of double prevention. In Section 1 I shall introduce objective and non-objective theories of the causes-background conditions distinction and I shall discuss and reject some non-objective theories. In Section 2 I shall examine some existing objective theories and argue that they need to (...) be supplemented in two relevant respects. In Section 3 I shall present my double negation account. Background conditions will be taken to allow for their effects by acting as early double preventers, late double preventers or effect double preventers. In Section 4 I shall deal with two main problems, i.e., the possibility of interpreting background conditions as purely indirect causes and the introduction of negative entities in my account, and with further issues. (shrink)
Analyses of factual causation face perennial problems, including preemption, overdetermination, and omissions. Arguably, the thorniest, are cases of omissive overdetermination, involving two independent omissions, each sufficient for the harm, and neither, independently, making a difference. A famous example is Saunders, where pedestrian was hit by a driver of a rental car who never pressed on the (unbeknownst to the driver) defective (and, negligently, never inspected) brakes. Causal intuitions in such cases are messy, reflected in disagreement about which omission mattered. What (...) these analyses mistakenly take for granted, is that at issue is the 'efficacy' of each omission. I argue, on the contrary, the puzzle of omissive overdetermination favors taking the act/omission distinction seriously. Factual causation, properly understood precludes omissions (i.e. omissions are not causal). Of course, the law also attaches liability to omissions, but this works differently from liability for real causes (e.g. omissions have a duty requirement, they also respond differentially to difference-making considerations). The manner in which liability attaches for omissions differs from that of straightforward causal liability, and is entirely dependent on the underlying causal structure. Attention to that structure (e.g. that the driver's hitting the pedestrian with his car is what actually caused the injury) sheds light on which omissions matter (e.g. driver's failure to press on the brakes) and why (because that failure removes a defense the driver would have to liability for the accident he caused). Other cases, where the parties' connection is entirely omissive (e.g. two physicians fail to detect independently lethal conditions), come out differently (tracking moralized elements). The analysis offered makes better sense of both why omissive determination cases are puzzling and how to resolve them. (shrink)
This paper brings together Thompson's naive action explanation with interventionist modeling of causal structure to show how they work together to produce causal models that go beyond current modeling capabilities, when applied to specifically selected systems. By deploying well-justified assumptions about rationalization, we can strengthen existing causal modeling techniques' inferential power in cases where we take ourselves to be modeling causal systems that also involve actions. The internal connection between means and end exhibited in naive action explanation has a modal (...) strength like that of distinctively mathematical explanation, rather than that of causal explanation. Because it is stronger than causation, it can be treated as if it were merely causal in a causal model without thereby overextending the justification it can provide for inferences. This chapter introduces and demonstrate the usage of the Rationalization condition in causal modeling, where it is apt for the system(s) being modeled, and to provide the basics for incorporating R variables into systems of variables and R arrows into DAGs. Use of the Rationalization condition supplements causal analysis with action analysis where it is apt. (shrink)
Leibniz is often cited as an authority when it comes to the formulation and answer strategy of the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Yet much current research assumes that Leibniz advocates an unambiguous question and strategy for the answer. In this respect, one repeatedly finds the argument in the literature that alternative explanatory approaches to this question violate Leibniz’s intention, since he derives the question from the principle of sufficient reason and also demands a causal explanation to (...) the question. In particular, the new research on non-causal explanatory strategies to the Leibniz question seems to concern this counter-argument. In this paper, however, I will argue that while Leibniz raises the question by means of the principle of sufficient reason, he even favours a non-causal explanatory strategy to the question. Thus, a more accurate Leibniz interpretation seems not only to legitimise but also to support non-causal explanations to the Leibniz question. (shrink)
Kristie Miller and James Norton present a new account of metaphysical explanation, not as a philosophical technicality but as a feature of everyday life. This is the notion that we all use in ordinary contexts when we give explanations of a certain sort: Miller and Norton build their account on investigation of these explanatory practices.
This paper defends three claims about concrete or physical models: these models remain important in science and engineering, they are often essentially idealized, in a sense to be made precise, and despite these essential idealizations, some of these models may be reliably used for the purpose of causal explanation. This discussion of concrete models is pursued using a detailed case study of some recent models of landslide generated impulse waves. Practitioners show a clear awareness of the idealized character of these (...) models, and yet address these concerns through a number of methods. This paper focuses on experimental arguments that show how certain failures to accurately represent feature X are consistent with accurately representing some causes of feature Y, even when X is causally relevant to Y. To analyse these arguments, the claims generated by a model must be carefully examined and grouped into types. Only some of these types can be endorsed by practitioners, but I argue that these endorsed claims are sufficient for limited forms of causal explanation. (shrink)
In this article, I defend a biconditional counterfactual account of causation, which places equal emphasis on what I call “the presence condition” and “the absence condition,” whereas Lewis's classical counterfactual theory focuses only on the absence condition. I attempt to show that biconditionalism provides a promising treatment of supervenient causation, namely, causal cases involving the supervenience relationship. Although some philosophers confuse this account with the proportionality constraint on causation, I argue that biconditionalism is distinct from and superior to proportionalism in (...) accommodating our reliable causal intuitions. (shrink)
A popular principle about grounding, “Internality”, says that if A grounds B, then necessarily, if A and B obtain, then A grounds B. I argue that Internality is false. Its falsity reveals a distinctive, new kind of explanation, which I call “ennobling”. Its falsity also entails that every previously proposed theory of what grounds grounding facts is false. I construct a new theory.
Consider an infinite series whose items are each explained by their immediate successor. Does such an infinite explanation explain the whole series or does it leave something to be explained? Hume arguably claimed that it does fully explain the whole series. Leibniz, however, designed a very telling objection against this claim, an objection involving an infinite series of book copies. In this paper, I argue that the Humean claim can, in certain cases, be saved from the Leibnizian “infinite book copies” (...) objection, and that this provides an interesting way to defuse some cosmological arguments for the existence of God and to give a non-theistic but complete explanation of the Universe. In the course of my argumentation, I also show that circular explanations can be “self-explanatory” as well: explaining two items by each other can explain the couple of items tout court. (shrink)
An adequate understanding of the ubiquitous practice of mechanistic explanation requires an account of what Craver termed “constitutive relevance.” Entities or activities are constitutively relevant to a phenomenon when they are parts of the mechanism responsible for that phenomenon. Craver’s mutual manipulability account extended Woodward’s account of manipulationist counterfactuals to analyze how interlevel experiments establish constitutive relevance. Critics of MM argue that applying Woodward’s account to this philosophical problem conflates causation and constitution, thus rendering the account incoherent. These criticisms, we (...) argue, arise from failing to distinguish the semantic, epistemic, and metaphysical aspects of the problem of constitutive relevance. In distinguishing these aspects of the problem and responding to these critics accordingly, we amend MM into a refined epistemic criterion, the “matched interlevel experiments” account. Further, we explain how this epistemological thesis is grounded in the plausible metaphysical thesis that constitutive relevance is causal betweenness. (shrink)
A traditional account of coincidences has it that two facts are coincidental whenever they are not related as cause and effect and do not have a common cause. A recent contribution by Lando : 132–151, 2017) showed that this account is mistaken. In this paper, I argue against two alternative accounts of coincidences, one suggested by Lando, and another by Bhogal : 677–694, 2020), and defend a third one in their place. In short, I propose that how explanatory links relate (...) to non-coincidental facts in explanation is what drives a wedge between coincidences and non-coincidences. This proposal is not susceptible to the worries I raise, and is more general, since it is not restricted to coincidences and non-coincidences involving physical facts. (shrink)
Epidemiological explanation often has a “black box” character, meaning the intermediate steps between cause and effect are unknown. Filling in black boxes is thought to improve causal inferences by making them intelligible. I argue that adding information about intermediate causes to a black box explanation is an unreliable guide to pragmatic intelligibility because it may mislead us about the stability of a cause. I diagnose a problem that I call wishful intelligibility, which occurs when scientists misjudge the limitations of certain (...) features of an explanation. Wishful intelligibility gives us a new reason to prefer black box explanations in some contexts. (shrink)
In cases in which many causes together bring about an effect, it is common to select some as particularly important. Philosophers since Mill have been pessimistic about analyzing this reasoning because of its variability and the multifarious causal and pragmatic details of how it works. I argue Mill was right to think these details matter but wrong that they preclude philosophical analysis of causal selection. I show that analyzing the pragmatic details of scientific debates about the important causes of the (...) Bhopal Gas Tragedy can illuminate causal reasoning about disasters and shed new light on causality and causal selection. (shrink)
Kinds that share historical properties are dubbed “historical kinds” or “etiological kinds,” and they have some distinctive features. I will try to characterize etiological kinds in general terms and briefly survey some previous philosophical discussions of these kinds. Then I will take a closer look at a few case studies involving different types of etiological kinds. Finally, I will try to understand the rationale for classifying on the basis of etiology, putting forward reasons for classifying phenomena on the basis of (...) diachronic features, thereby making a provisional case for considering at least some etiological kinds to be natural kinds. (shrink)
Proponents of ontic conceptions of explanation require all explanations to be backed by causal, constitutive, or similar relations. Among their justifications is that only ontic conceptions can do justice to the ‘directionality’ of explanation, i.e., the requirement that if X explains Y , then not-Y does not explain not-X . Using topological explanations as an illustration, we argue that non-ontic conceptions of explanation have ample resources for securing the directionality of explanations. The different ways in which neuroscientists rely on multiplexes (...) involving both functional and anatomical connectivity in their topological explanations vividly illustrate why ontic considerations are frequently (if not always) irrelevant to explanatory directionality. Therefore, directionality poses no problem to non-ontic conceptions of explanation. (shrink)
One primary goal for metaphysical theories of natural kinds is to account for their epistemic fruitfulness. According to cluster theories of natural kinds, this epistemic fruitfulness is grounded in the regular and stable co- occurrence of a broad set of properties. In this paper, I defend the view that such a cluster theory is insufficient to adequately account for the epistemic fruitfulness of kinds. I argue that cluster theories can indeed account for the projectibility of natural kinds, but not for (...) several other epistemic operations that natural kinds support. Natural kinds also play a role in scientific explanations and categorizations. A theory of natural kinds can only account for these additional kind-based epistemic practices if it also analyzes their causal structure. (shrink)
The World Health Organization has issued international instructions for certification and classification (coding) of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as cause of death. Central to these instructions is the selection of the underlying cause of death for a public health preventive purpose. This article focuses on two rules for this selection: (1) that a death due to COVID-19 should be counted independently of pre-existing conditions that are suspected of triggering a severe course of COVID-19 and (2) that COVID-19 should not be (...) considered as due to anything else. The article argues that observance of the first rule may not always lead to an optimal selection from a preventive point of view and that in the future the ascertainment of an animal source of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) would make it possible to reconceptualize ‘COVID-19‘ and create a zoonotic classification code by means of which a factor of a greater preventive value could be selected than what is currently possible. (shrink)
Hume’s famous character Cleanthes claims that there is no difficulty in explaining the existence of causal chains with no first cause since in them each item is causally explained by its predecessor. Relying on logico-mathematical resources, we argue for two theses: (1) if the existence of Cleanthes’ chain can be explained at all, it must be explained by the fact that the causal law ruling it is in force, and (2) the fact that such a causal law is in force (...) cannot explain the occurrence of the events in the chain. In order to perform (1), we manage to express in mathematical terms the intuitive idea that indefinitely delayed explanation is ultimately no explanation. In order to achieve (2), we identify a logical relation we can prove to be as strong as the causal relation at issue in the Cleanthes passage, according to a precise notion of strength of relations. (shrink)
Masks, interferers, finks, reverse finks, and mimickers are troublesome for powers metaphysics insofar as the latter concedes that there are powers with essential stimuli/activation conditions. In this article, I aim at offering a novel approach for solving this problem. In Section 1, I shall present the problem; and in Section 2, I shall briefly show how it also arises within non‐reductive views of powers. Subsequently, in Section 3, I shall examine the failure of the ceteris paribus solution. The pars construens (...) will begin in Section 4, where I shall distinguish between the activation conditions, the background conditions, and the possession conditions of a power. Within each category, I shall draw further distinctions. In Section 5, I shall demonstrate how such distinctions may ground a solution to our problem. Finally, in Section 6, I shall anticipate and reply to four objections. (shrink)
In this article, we discuss the issue of context-dependence of mechanism-based explanation in the social sciences. The different ways in which the context-dependence and context-independence of mechanism-based explanation have been understood in the social sciences are often motivated by different and apparently incompatible understandings of what explanatory mechanisms are. Instead, we suggest that the different varieties of context-dependence are best seen as corresponding to different research goals. Rather than conflicting with one another, these goals are complementary to each other and (...) therefore pave the way to a methodologically more cooperative approach to mechanism-based explanation in the social sciences. (shrink)
This paper argues there are crucial points in Nietzsche’s texts where he offers a priori epistemic justification for views he believes are correct. My reading contrasts with the dominant view that Nietzsche’s philosophical naturalism is incompatible with a priori justification. My aim is to develop Nietzsche’s brand of a priori justification, show that he employs this account of justification in the texts, and suggest how it might be compatible with naturalism.
Explanatory realism is the view that explanations work by providing information about relations of productive determination such as causation or grounding. The view has gained considerable popularity in the last decades, especially in the context of metaphysical debates about non-causal explanation. What makes the view particularly attractive is that it fits nicely with the idea that not all explanations are causal whilst avoiding an implausible pluralism about explanation. Another attractive feature of the view is that it allows explanation to be (...) a partially epistemic, context-dependent phenomenon. In spite of its attractiveness, explanatory realism has recently been subject to criticism. In particular, Taylor :197–219, 2018). has presented four types of explanation that the view allegedly cannot account for. This paper defends explanatory realism against Taylor’s challenges. We will show that Taylor’s counterexamples are either explanations that turn out to provide information about entities standing in productive determination relations or that they are not genuine explanations in the first place. (shrink)
Recent philosophical work on causation has focused on distinctions across types of causal relationships. This paper argues for another distinction that has yet to receive attention in this work. This distinction has to do with whether causal relationships have “material continuity,” which refers to the reliable movement of material from cause to effect. This paper provides an analysis of material continuity and argues that causal relationships with this feature are associated with a unique explanatory perspective, are studied with distinct causal (...) investigative methods, and provide different types of causal control over their effects. (shrink)
Separatists about grounding take explanations to be separate from their corresponding grounding-facts. Grounding-facts are supposed to underlie, or back, such explanations. However, the backing relation hasn’t received much attention in the literature. The aim of this paper is to provide an informative definition of backing. First, I examine two prominent proposals: backing as explaining (Kovacs 2017; 2019a) and backing as grounding (see Sjölin Wirling 2020). Finally, I put forward my own proposal. I argue that under plausible assumptions about the role (...) of backing and the nature of explanation, backing should be understood as a form of truthmaking, minimally construed. (shrink)
While ideal interventions are acknowledged by many as valuable tools for the analysis of causation, recent discussions have shown that, since there are no ideal interventions on upper-level phenomena that non-reductively supervene on their underlying mechanisms, interventions cannot—contrary to a popular opinion—ground an informative analysis of constitution. This has led some to abandon the project of analyzing constitution in interventionist terms. By contrast, this paper defines the notion of a horizontally surgical intervention, and argues that, when combined with some innocuous (...) metaphysical principles about the relation between upper and lower levels of mechanisms, that notion delivers a sufficient condition for constitution. This, in turn, strengthens the case for an interventionist analysis of constitution. (shrink)
Theories of explanation need to account for a puzzling feature of our explanatory practices: the fact that we prefer explanations that are relatively abstract but only moderately so. Contra Franklin-Hall (), I argue that the interventionist account of explanation provides a natural and elegant explanation of this fact. By striking the right balance between specificity and generality, moderately abstract explanations optimally subserve what interventionists regard as the goal of explanation, namely identifying possible interventions that would have changed the explanandum.
The French physicist Jean Baptiste Perrin is widely credited with providing the conclusive argument for atomism. The most well-known part of Perrin’s argument is his description of thirteen different procedures for determining Avogadro’s number (N)–the number of atoms, ions, and molecules contained in a gram-atom, gram-ion, and gram-mole of a substance, respectively. Because of its success in ending the atomism debates Perrin’s argument has been the focus of much philosophical interest. The various philosophers, however, have reached different conclusions, not only (...) about the argument’s general rationale but also the role that the multiple determination of N played in it. This paper emphasizes the historical development of Perrin’s experimental work in order to understand the role that the multiple determination of molecular magnitudes played in his argument for molecular reality. It claims that Perrin used the multiple determination strategy to put forward an exceptionally strong no-coincidence argument to argue for both the correctness of the values for the molecular magnitudes determined and the validity of the auxiliary assumptions upon which the different determinations were based. The historicist approach also allows the identification of the elements responsible for the epistemic strength of Perrin’s no-coincidence argument. (shrink)
In 1937, John Dewey delivered a lecture to the College of Physicians in Saint Louis. His clear message was that in the practice of medicine it does not suffice for physicians to treat just the body, or to look to just the body for the mechanism of disease. Emphasizing the relational nature of organism-environment, he argued that the physician must treat the whole patient and must therefore consider the environment of the patient. It makes no sense, he suggested, to provide (...) medicine to address a problem with the patient's lungs and then to send him back into the coal mine. As he put it: "We must observe and understand internal processes and their interactions from the standpoint of their interactions with what is... (shrink)
It is commonly thought that Jean Perrin argued for the reality of atoms in the early twentieth century by using what Wesley Salmon calls a “common cause” argument, also known as robustness reasoning. After citing some concerns with this interpretation of Perrin, I offer a different interpretation of Perrin’s work that more closely depicts the details of Perrin’s reasoning in his relevant published writings. I then offer a historical argument that supports this interpretation and discuss the philosophical merits of Perrin’s (...) style of reasoning as I have presented it. I close by showing how my interpretation is distinct from previous interpretations of Perrin’s work. (shrink)
This essay examines the relation between causation and causal explanation. It distinguishes two prominent roles that causes play within the sciences. On the one hand, causes may work as metaphysical posits. From this standpoint, mainstream in contemporary philosophy, causation provides the ‘raw material’ for explanation. On the other hand, causes may be conceived as explanatory postulates, theoretical hypotheses lacking any substantial ontological commitment. This unduly neglected distinction provides the conceptual resources to revisit longstanding philosophical issues, such as overdetermination and causal (...) pluralism. It also inspires a provocative reframing of Russell’s famous, if notoriously elusive, remarks on the nature of causation. (shrink)
One of the foundational problems of biochemistry concerns the conceptualisation of the relationship between the composition, structure and function of macromolecules like proteins. Part of the recent philosophical literature displays a reductionist bias, that is, the endorsement of a form of microstructuralism mirroring an out-dated biochemical conceptualisation. We shall argue that such microstructuralist approaches are ultimately committed to a potentialist form of micro-predeterminism whereby the macrostructure and function of proteins is accounted for solely in terms of the intrinsic properties and (...) potentialities of the components of the primary structure as if they were self-contained or essentially immutable entities. We shall instead suggest that a conceptualisation of the relationship between proteins’ composition, structure and function consistent with contemporary biochemical practice should account also for the causal role of the cellular, organismal and environmental relations in protein development. The analysis of the folding process we propose suggests that microstructure-laden reductionist approaches are ontologically indefensible. Rather than a potentialist form of micro-predeterminism, our analysis ultimately supports a relational-construction-based view of protein development and potentialities formation, which requires an indispensable analysis of the dynamical interplay between the micro-level of the parts and the macro-level of the relational structures of their systems. (shrink)
Augustine’s use of the concept of rationes seminales in his interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 enabled him to assert that although God created everything instantaneously, in the initial state of the universe all species were present in the potency of the primordial matter, to be actualized at the consecutive stages of the history of its transformations and development. Despite its interpretation as evolutionary in the writings of Mivart, Zahm, and Dorlodot, Augustine’s model did not, in fact, assume a gradual (...) transformation of one species into another – which became the main objection from the point of view of the advocates of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Moreover, the possibility (if not necessity) of direct divine interventions in the unfolding of rationes seminales made Augustine’s notion of creation even more inadequate in its encounter with modern biology and the philosophical reflection it inspires. This article critically analyzes Aquinas’s use of Augustine’s concept of rationes seminales and develops a constructive proposal of the Thomistic metaphysics of evolutionary transformism – based on Aquinas’s embracement of Aristotle’s moderate realism about universals, including species, grounded in hylomorphic metaphysics of substance. (shrink)
The legitimacy of going back to the classical view of God’s action in the world based on the list of causes and understanding of chance in the works of Aristotle and Aquinas – in the context of contemporary science – seems to depend on whether there is a space for causal analysis within the current models of scientific explanation. This article offers a brief account of the path leading to negation and rediscovery of the importance of causality in scientific explanation (...) and reintroduces the semicausal position of the prominent philosopher of science, Mario Bunge, who treats causation as one of several categories of determination. The diversity of the categories he lists finds analogy in the commonly accepted pluralist approach to the search of the model which adequately describes the practice of scientific research. What is more, the same diversity of the categories of determination opens the way back to the classical Aristotle’s fourfold account of causation and his understanding of chance. This fact allows us, in turn, to defend the contemporary version of the classical notion of divine action against the accusation of methodical error in the form of imposing the notion of the ancient categories of causality on the results of contemporary scientific research, which notion, as some maintain, has little in common with the models of explanation currently accepted in natural sciences. (shrink)
Explanations are backed by many different relations: causation, grounding, and arguably others too. But why are these different relations capable of backing explanations? In virtue of what are they explanatory? In this paper, I propose and defend a monistic account of explanation-backing relations. On my account, there is a single relation which backs all cases of explanation, and which explains why those other relations are explanation-backing.
Berkeley, Newton, Explanation, and Causation -/- I argue in this paper that Berkeley’s conception of natural law explanations, which echoes Newton’s, fails to solve a fundamental problem, which I label “explanatory asymmetry"; that the model of explanation Berkeley uses fails to distinguish between explanations and justifications, particularly since Berkeley denies real (efficient causes) in non-minded nature. At the end I suggest Berkeley might endorse a notion of understanding, say in astronomy or mechanics, which could be distinguished from explanation.
Many philosophers have shown sympathy to the thought that reality is fundamentally positive. Julio De Rizzo formulates this idea precisely by means of the notion of grounding, and examines how the resulting thesis fares with respect to three much discussed classes of negative truths, namely that of negative predications, that of negative causal reports, and that of negative existential truths. By shedding light on the issues advocates of the thesis have to deal with, this work shows the positivist account to (...) be a tenable position in metaphysics. (shrink)
Explaining the behaviour of ecosystems is one of the key challenges for the biological sciences. Since 2000, new-mechanicism has been the main model to account for the nature of scientific explanation in biology. The universality of the new-mechanist view in biology has been however put into question due to the existence of explanations that account for some biological phenomena in terms of their mathematical properties (mathematical explanations). Supporters of mathematical explanation have argued that the explanation of the behaviour of ecosystems (...) is usually provided in terms of their mathematical properties, and not in mechanistic terms. They have intensively studied the explanation of the properties of ecosystems that behave following the rules of a non-random network. However, no attention has been devoted to the study of the nature of the explanation in those that form a random network. In this paper, we cover that gap by analysing the explanation of the stability behaviour of the microbiome recently elaborated by Coyte and colleagues, to determine whether it fits with the model of explanation suggested by the new-mechanist or by the defenders of mathematical explanation. Our analysis of this case study supports three theses: (1) that the explanation is not given solely in terms of mechanisms, as the new-mechanists understand the concept; (2) that the mathematical properties that describe the system play an essential explanatory role, but they do not exhaust the explanation; (3) that a non-previously identified appeal to the type of interactions that the entities in the network can exhibit, as well as their abundance, is also necessary for Coyte and colleagues’ account to be fully explanatory. From the combination of these three theses we argue for the necessity of an integrative pluralist view of the nature of behaviour explanation when this is given by appealing to the existence of a random network. (shrink)
Schupbach and Sprenger introduce a novel probabilistic approach to measuring the explanatory power that a given explanans exerts over a corresponding explanandum. Though we are sympathetic to their general approach, we argue that it does not adequately capture the way in which the causal explanatory power that c exerts on e varies with background knowledge. We then amend their approach so that it does capture this variance. Though our account of explanatory power is less ambitious than Schupbach and Sprenger’s in (...) the sense that it is limited to causal explanatory power, it is also more ambitious because we do not limit its domain to cases where c genuinely explains e. Instead, we claim that c causally explains e if and only if our account says that c explains e with some positive amount of causal explanatory power. 1Introduction 2The Logic of Explanatory Power 3Subjective and Nomic Distributions 3.1Actual degrees of belief 3.2The causal distribution 4Background Knowledge 4.1Conditionalization and colliders 4.2A helpful intervention 5Causal Explanatory Power 5.1The applicability of explanatory power 5.2Statistical relevance ≠ causal explanatory power 5.3Interventionist explanatory power 5.4E illustrated 6Conclusion. (shrink)
Many enthusiasts of theistic evolution willingly accept Aquinas’s distinction between primary and secondary causes, to describe theologically “the mechanics” of evolutionary transformism. However, their description of the character of secondary causes in relation to God’s creative action oftentimes lacks precision. To some extent, the situation within the Thomistic camp is similar when it comes to specifying the exact nature of secondary and instrumental causes at work in evolution. Is it right to ascribe all causation in evolution to creatures—acting as secondary (...) and instrumental causes? Is there any space for a more direct divine action in evolutionary transitions? This article offers a new model of explaining the complexity of the causal nexus in the origin of new biological species, including the human species, analyzed in reference to both the immanent and transcendent orders of causation. (shrink)