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Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World

Princeton University Press (1984)

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  1. Micro-level model explanation and counterfactual constraint.Samuel Schindler - 2022 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12 (2):1-27.
    Relationships of counterfactual dependence have played a major role in recent debates of explanation and understanding in the philosophy of science. Usually, counterfactual dependencies have been viewed as the explanantia of explanation, i.e., the things providing explanation and understanding. Sometimes, however, counterfactual dependencies are themselves the targets of explanations in science. These kinds of explanations are the focus of this paper. I argue that “micro-level model explanations” explain the particular form of the empirical regularity underlying a counterfactual dependency by representing (...)
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  • Philosophy of Science in Practice in Ecological Model Building.Luana Poliseli, Jeferson G. E. Coutinho, Blandina Viana, Federica Russo & Charbel N. El-Hani - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):0-0.
    This article addresses the contributions of the literature on the new mechanistic philosophy of science for the scientific practice of model building in ecology. This is reflected in a one-to-one interdisciplinary collaboration between an ecologist and a philosopher of science during science-in-the-making. We argue that the identification, reconstruction and understanding of mechanisms is context-sensitive, and for this case study mechanistic modeling did not present a normative role but a heuristic one. We expect our study to provides useful epistemic tools for (...)
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  • Six Theses on Mechanisms and Mechanistic Science.Stuart Glennan, Phyllis Illari & Erik Weber - 2022 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 53 (2):143-161.
    In this paper we identify six theses that constitute core results of philosophical investigation into the nature of mechanisms, and of the role that the search for and identification of mechanisms play in the sciences. These theses represent the fruits of the body of research that is now often called New Mechanism. We concisely present the main arguments for these theses. In the literature, these arguments are scattered and often implicit. Our analysis can guide future research in many ways: it (...)
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  • Some Concerns Regarding Explanatory Pluralism: The Explanatory Role of Optimality Models.Gabriel Târziu - 2019 - Filozofia Nauki 28 (4):95-113.
    Optimality models are widely used in different parts of biology. Two important questions that have been asked about such models are: are they explanatory and, if so, what type of explanations do they offer? My concern in this paper is with the approach of Rice (2012, 2015) and Irvine (2015), who claim that these models provide non-causal explanations. I argue that there are serious problems with this approach and with the accounts of explanation it is intended to justify. The idea (...)
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  • 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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  • The Key Role of Causal Explanation in the Climate Change Issue.Francesca Pongiglione - 2012 - Theoria 27 (2):175-188.
    The basis for adoption of pro-environment behaviour is the understanding of causal passages within climate dynamics. The understanding of the causes of climate change is necessary in order _to be able_ to take mitigation actions. Conversely, the understanding of the consequences of climate change is essential in _motivating_ action. The case of ozone depletion confirms this view: the understanding of its causal dynamics played a determining role in people’s behavioural response.
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  • What is It Like to Be a Relativistic GRW Theory? Or: Quantum Mechanics and Relativity, Still in Conflict After All These Years.Valia Allori - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (4):1-28.
    The violation of Bell’s inequality has shown that quantum theory and relativity are in tension: reality is nonlocal. Nonetheless, many have argued that GRW-type theories are to be preferred to pilot-wave theories as they are more compatible with relativity: while relativistic pilot-wave theories require a preferred slicing of space-time, foliation-free relativistic GRW-type theories have been proposed. In this paper I discuss various meanings of ‘relativistic invariance,’ and I show how GRW-type theories, while being more relativistic in one sense, are less (...)
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  • Explanatory Rivals and the Ultimate Argument.Finnur Dellsén - 2015 - Theoria 82 (3):217-237.
    Although many aspects of Inference to the Best Explanation have been extensively discussed, very little has so far been said about what it takes for a hypothesis to count as a rival explanatory hypothesis in the context of IBE. The primary aim of this article is to rectify this situation by arguing for a specific account of explanatory rivalry. On this account, explanatory rivals are complete explanations of a given explanandum. When explanatory rivals are conceived of in this way, I (...)
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  • Synchronic Vs. Diachronic Emergence: A Reappraisal.Olivier Sartenaer - 2015 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (1):31-54.
    In this paper, I put forward a benchmark account of emergence in terms of non-explainability and explicate the relationship that exists between its synchronic and diachronic declinations. I develop an argument whose conclusion is that emergence is essentially a “two-faceted” notion, i.e. it always encapsulates both synchronic and diachronic dimensions. I then compare this account with alternative recent accounts of emergence that define the concept through the notion of unpredictability or topological non-equivalence.
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  • Public Health Policy, Evidence, and Causation: Lessons From the Studies on Obesity.Federica Russo - 2012 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 15 (2):141-151.
    The paper addresses the question of how different types of evidence ought to inform public health policy. By analysing case studies on obesity, the paper draws lessons about the different roles that different types of evidence play in setting up public health policies. More specifically, it is argued that evidence of difference-making supports considerations about ‘what works for whom in what circumstances’, and that evidence of mechanisms provides information about the ‘causal pathways’ to intervene upon.
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  • A Tale of Two Effects.Christopher Hitchcock - 2001 - Philosophical Review 110 (3):361-396.
    In recent years, there has been a philosophical cottage industry producing arguments that our concept of causation is not univocal: that there are in fact two concepts of causation, corresponding to distinct species of causal relation. Papers written in this tradition have borne titles like “Two Concepts of Cause” and “Two Concepts of Causation”. With due apologies to Charles Dickens, I hereby make my own contribution to this genre.
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  • Should Philosophers Take Lessons From Quantum Theory?Christopher Norris - 1999 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 42 (3 & 4):311 – 342.
    This essay examines some of the arguments in David Deutsch's book The Fabric of Reality , chief among them its case for the so-called many-universe interpretation of quantum mechanics (QM), presented as the only physically and logically consistent solution to the QM paradoxes of wave/particle dualism, remote simultaneous interaction, the observer-induced 'collapse of the wave-packet', etc. The hypothesis assumes that all possible outcomes are realized in every such momentary 'collapse', since the observer splits off into so many parallel, coexisting, but (...)
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  • Putnam’s Account of Apriority and Scientific Change: Its Historical and Contemporary Interest.Jonathan Y. Tsou - 2010 - Synthese 176 (3):429-445.
    In the 1960s and 1970s, Hilary Putnam articulated a notion of relativized apriority that was motivated to address the problem of scientific change. This paper examines Putnam’s account in its historical context and in relation to contemporary views. I begin by locating Putnam’s analysis in the historical context of Quine’s rejection of apriority, presenting Putnam as a sympathetic commentator on Quine. Subsequently, I explicate Putnam’s positive account of apriority, focusing on his analysis of the history of physics and geometry. In (...)
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  • Causation, Chance and Credence: Proceedings of the Irvine Conference on Probability and Causation Volume 1.Brian Skyrms & William L. Harper (eds.) - 1988
    The papers collected here are, with three exceptions, those presented at a conference on probability and causation held at the University of California at Irvine on July 15-19, 1985. The exceptions are that David Freedman and Abner Shimony were not able to contribute the papers that they presented to this volume, and that Clark Glymour who was not able to attend the conference did contribute a paper. We would like to thank the National Science Foundation and the School of Humanities (...)
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  • Quantum Nonlocality and the Challenge to Scientific Realism.Christopher Norris - 2000 - Foundations of Science 5 (1):3-45.
    In this essay I examine various aspects of the nearcentury-long debate concerning the conceptualfoundations of quantum mechanics and the problems ithas posed for physicists and philosophers fromEinstein to the present. Most crucial here is theissue of realism and the question whether quantumtheory is compatible with any kind of realist orcausal-explanatory account which goes beyond theempirical-predictive data. This was Einstein's chiefconcern in the famous series of exchanges with NielsBohr when he refused to accept the truth orcompleteness of a doctrine (orthodox QM) (...)
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  • Explanation and Individual Essence.Márta Ujvári - 2017 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 13 (2):23-42.
    In this paper I show that a novel ontic reading of explanation, intending to capture the de re essential features of individuals, can support the qualitative view of individual essences. It is argued further that the putative harmful consequences of the Leibniz Principle and its converse for the qualitative view can be avoided, provided that individual essences are not construed in the style of the naïve bundle theory with set-theoretical identity- conditions. Adopting either the more sophisticated two-tier BT or, alternatively, (...)
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  • Transference, or Identiry Theories of Causation?María José García-Encinas - 2004 - Theoria 19 (1):31-47.
    Transference theorists propose to explain causation in terms of the transference of a physical element. I argue, in two steps, that this is not possible. First, I show that available accounts of ‘transference’ ultimately convey that transference -and, consequently, causation- is the (non-relational) identity over time of the transferred element (a universal, a trope, or even an absolute substance). But, second, I try to defend, it is conceptually impossible that causation is (non-relational) identity.
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  • Transference, or Identity Theories of Causation?María José García-Encinas - 2010 - Theoria 19 (1):31-47.
    I argue that transference is, ultimately, identity over time, and that identity over time can't possibly be causation. Transference, then, fails as an analysis of causation.
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  • Über Zwei Formen Von Realismus in der Quantentheorie.Michael Stöltzner - 1999 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 30 (2):289-316.
    On Two Types of Realism in Quantum Theory. Current realist approaches to the foundations of quantum theory emphasize the dichotomy between (Copenhagen) positivism and ‘beable’-realism. Recently it was even attempted to turn this picture into two (equally possible) histories in order to legitimate Bohmian Mechanics as a viable alternative. This paper argues that this dichotomy is philosophically inadequate and historically questionable by embedding it into the philosophical discussion on positivism and realism that has taken place since the 1920s. Logical Empiricists (...)
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  • Explanation in Biology: An Enquiry Into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences.P.-A. Braillard and C. Malaterre (ed.) - 2015 - Springer.
  • A causal ontology of objects, causal relations, and various kinds of action.Andrew Newman - 2022 - Synthese 200 (4):1-28.
    The basic kinds of physical causality that are foundational for other kinds of causality involve objects and the causal relations between them. These interactions do not involve events. If events were ontologically significant entities for causality in general, then they would play a role in simple mechanical interactions. But arguments about simple collisions looked at from different frames of reference show that events cannot play a role in simple mechanical interactions, and neither can the entirely hypothetical causal relations between events. (...)
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  • EPSA Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009, The European Philosophy of Science Association Proceedings Vol. 1, 375-386.H. W. De Regt (ed.) - 2012 - Springer.
  • Special Issue: Philosophical Considerations in the Teaching of Biology. Part I, Philosophy of Biology and Biological Explanation.Kostas Kampourakis (ed.) - 2013 - Springer (Science & Education).
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  • Counterfactuals and Scientific Realism.Michael J. Shaffer - 2012 - London and Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
    This book is a sustained defense of the compatibility of the presence of idealizations in the sciences and scientific realism. So, the book is essentially a detailed response to the infamous arguments raised by Nancy Cartwright to the effect that idealization and scientific realism are incompatible.
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  • Academic Freedom, Feminism and the Probabilistic Conception of Evidence.Tom Vinci - 2022 - Philosophy Study 12 (6).
  • The Place of Probability in Science: In Honor of Ellery Eells (1953-2006).Ellery Eells & James H. Fetzer (eds.) - 2010 - Springer.
  • How Simplicity Can Be a Virtue in Philosophical Theory-Choice.Marc Lange - forthcoming - Erkenntnis.
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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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  • Explanatory Generalizations, Part II: Plumbing Explanatory Depth.Christopher Hitchcock & James Woodward - 2003 - Noûs 37 (2):181–199.
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  • Reichenbachian Common Cause Clusters.Claudio Mazzola, David Kinkead, Peter Ellerton & Deborah Brown - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (4):1707-1735.
    The principle of the common cause demands that every pair of causally independent but statistically correlated events should be the effect of a common cause. This demand is often supplemented with the requirement that said cause should screen-off the two events from each other. This paper introduces a new probabilistic model for common causes, which generalises this requirement to include sets of distinct but non-disjoint causes. It is demonstrated that the model hereby proposed satisfies the explanatory function generally attributed to (...)
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  • The Oxford Handbook of Causal Reasoning.Michael Waldmann (ed.) - 2017 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
    Causal reasoning is one of our most central cognitive competencies, enabling us to adapt to our world. Causal knowledge allows us to predict future events, or diagnose the causes of observed facts. We plan actions and solve problems using knowledge about cause-effect relations. Without our ability to discover and empirically test causal theories, we would not have made progress in various empirical sciences. In the past decades, the important role of causal knowledge has been discovered in many areas of cognitive (...)
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  • Concrete Causation: About the Structures of Causal Knowledge.Roland Poellinger - 2012 - Dissertation, LMU Munich
    Concrete Causation centers about theories of causation, their interpretation, and their embedding in metaphysical-ontological questions, as well as the application of such theories in the context of science and decision theory. The dissertation is divided into four chapters, that firstly undertake the historical-systematic localization of central problems (chapter 1) to then give a rendition of the concepts and the formalisms underlying David Lewis' and Judea Pearl's theories (chapter 2). After philosophically motivated conceptual deliberations Pearl's mathematical-technical framework is drawn on for (...)
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  • Criteria of Empirical Significance: A Success Story.Sebastian Lutz - manuscript
    The sheer multitude of criteria of empirical significance has been taken as evidence that the pre-analytic notion being explicated is too vague to be useful. I show instead that a significant number of these criteria—by Ayer, Popper, Przełęcki, Suppes, and David Lewis, among others—not only form a coherent whole, but also connect directly to the theory of definition, the notion of empirical content as explicated by Ramsey sentences, and the theory of measurement; two criteria by Carnap and Sober are trivial, (...)
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  • From probabilistic topologies to Feynman diagrams: Hans Reichenbach on time, genidentity, and quantum physics.Michael Stöltzner - 2022 - Synthese 200 (4):1-26.
    Hans Reichenbach’s posthumous book The Direction of Time ends somewhere between Socratic aporia and historical irony. Prompted by Feynman’s diagrammatic formulation of quantum electrodynamics, Reichenbach eventually abandoned the delicate balancing between the macroscopic foundation of the direction of time and microscopic descriptions of time order undertaken throughout the previous chapters in favor of an exclusively macroscopic theory that he had vehemently rejected in the 1920s. I analyze Reichenbach’s reasoning against the backdrop of the history of Feynman diagrams and the current (...)
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  • Biological Individuality: The Case of Biofilms.Marc Ereshefsky & Makmiller Pedroso - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (2):331-349.
    This paper examines David Hull’s and Peter Godfrey-Smith’s accounts of biological individuality using the case of biofilms. Biofilms fail standard criteria for individuality, such as having reproductive bottlenecks and forming parent-offspring lineages. Nevertheless, biofilms are good candidates for individuals. The nature of biofilms shows that Godfrey-Smith’s account of individuality, with its reliance on reproduction, is too restrictive. Hull’s interactor notion of individuality better captures biofilms, and we argue that it offers a better account of biological individuality. However, Hull’s notion of (...)
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  • Scientific Realism and the Rationality of Science.Howard Sankey - 2008 - Ashgate.
    Scientific realism is the position that the aim of science is to advance on truth and increase knowledge about observable and unobservable aspects of the mind-independent world which we inhabit. This book articulates and defends that position. In presenting a clear formulation and addressing the major arguments for scientific realism Sankey appeals to philosophers beyond the community of, typically Anglo-American, analytic philosophers of science to appreciate and understand the doctrine. The book emphasizes the epistemological aspects of scientific realism and contains (...)
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  • Epr Robustness and the Causal Markov Condition.Mauricio Suárez & Iñaki San Pedro - 2007 - Centre of Philosophy of Natural and Social Science.
    It is still a matter of controversy whether the Principle of the Common Cause can be used as a basis for sound causal inference. It is thus to be expected that its application to quantum mechanics should be a correspondingly controversial issue. Indeed the early 90’s saw a flurry of papers addressing just this issue in connection with the EPR correlations. Yet, that debate does not seem to have caught up with the most recent literature on causal inference generally, which (...)
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  • Causality and Causal Modelling in the Social Sciences.Federica Russo - 2009 - Springer, Dordrecht.
    The anti-causal prophecies of last century have been disproved. Causality is neither a ‘relic of a bygone’ nor ‘another fetish of modern science’; it still occupies a large part of the current debate in philosophy and the sciences. This investigation into causal modelling presents the rationale of causality, i.e. the notion that guides causal reasoning in causal modelling. It is argued that causal models are regimented by a rationale of variation, nor of regularity neither invariance, thus breaking down the dominant (...)
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  • Grounding-Mechanical Explanation.Kelly Trogdon - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (6):1289-1309.
    Characterization of a form of explanation involving grounding on the model of mechanistic causal explanation.
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  • Necessity and Apriority.Gordon Prescott Barnes - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 132 (3):495-523.
    The classical view of the relationship between necessity and apriority, defended by Leibniz and Kant, is that all necessary truths are known a priori. The classical view is now almost universally rejected, ever since Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam discovered that there are necessary truths that are known only a posteriori. However, in recent years a new debate has emerged over the epistemology of these necessary a posteriori truths. According to one view – call it the neo-classical view – knowledge (...)
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  • Selection in a Complex World: Deriving Causality From Stable Equilibrium.Hugh Desmond - 2018 - Erkenntnis 83 (2):265-286.
    It is an ongoing controversy whether natural selection is a cause of population change, or a mere statistical description of how individual births and deaths accumulate. In this paper I restate the problem in terms of the reference class problem, and propose how the structure of stable equilibrium can provide a solution in continuity with biological practice. Insofar natural selection can be understood as a tendency towards equilibrium, key statisticalist criticisms are avoided. Further, in a modification of the Newtonian-force analogy, (...)
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  • Understanding Mechanisms in the Health Sciences.Raffaella Campaner - 2010 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 32 (1):5-17.
    This article focuses on the assessment of mechanistic relations with specific attention to medicine, where mechanistic models are widely employed. I first survey recent contributions in the philosophical literature on mechanistic causation, and then take issue with Federica Russo and Jon Williamson’s thesis that two types of evidence, probabilistic and mechanistic, are at stake in the health sciences. I argue instead that a distinction should be drawn between previously acquired knowledge of mechanisms and yet-to-be-discovered knowledge of mechanisms and that both (...)
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  • Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science.Christopher Hitchcock (ed.) - 2004 - Blackwell.
    Showcasing original arguments for well-defined positions, as well as clear and concise statements of sophisticated philosophical views, this volume is an ...
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  • What Strong Sociologists Can Learn From Critical Realism: Bloor on the History of Aerodynamics.Christopher Norris - 2014 - Journal of Critical Realism 13 (1):3-37.
    This essay presents a long, detailed, in many ways critical but also appreciative account, of David Bloor’s recent book The Enigma of the Aerofoil. I take that work as the crowning statement of ideas and principles developed over the past four decades by Bloor and other exponents of the ‘strong programme’ in the sociology of scientific knowledge. It therefore offers both a test-case of that approach and a welcome opportunity to review, clarify and extend some of the arguments brought against (...)
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  • Causation in Memory: Necessity, Reliability and Probability.Nikola Andonovski - 2021 - Acta Scientiarum 43 (3).
    In this paper, I argue that causal theories of memory are typically committed to two independent, non-mutually entailing theses. The first thesis pertains to the necessity of appropriate causation in memory, specifying a condition token memories need to satisfy. The second pertains to the explanation of memory reliability in causal terms and it concerns memory as a type of mental state. Post-causal theories of memory can reject only the first (weak post-causalism) or both (strong post-causalism) theses. Upon this backdrop, I (...)
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  • Outlines of a Theory of Structural Explanations.Philippe Huneman - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (3):665-702.
    This paper argues that in some explanations mathematics are playing an explanatory rather than a representational role, and that this feature unifies many types of non-causal or non-mechanistic explanations that some philosophers of science have been recently exploring under various names. After showing how mathematics can play either a representational or an explanatory role by considering two alternative explanations of a same biological pattern—“Bergmann’s rule”—I offer an example of an explanation where the bulk of the explanatory job is done by (...)
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  • Husserl’s Theory of Scientific Explanation: A Bolzanian Inspired Unificationist Account.Heath Williams & Thomas Byrne - 2022 - Husserl Studies 38 (2):171-196.
    Husserl’s early picture of explanation in the sciences has never been completely provided. This lack represents an oversight, which we here redress. In contrast to currently accepted interpretations, we demonstrate that Husserl does not adhere to the much maligned deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation. Instead, via a close reading of early Husserlian texts, we reveal that he presents a unificationist account of scientific explanation. By doing so, we disclose that Husserl’s philosophy of scientific explanation is no mere anachronism. It is, (...)
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  • Counterfactual Theories of Causation and the Problem of Large Causes.Jens Harbecke - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (5):1647-1668.
    As is well-known, David Lewis’ counterfactual theory of causation is subject to serious counterexamples in ‘exceptional’ cases. What has not received due attention in the literature so far is that Lewis’ theory fails to provide necessary and sufficient conditions for causation in ‘ordinary’ cases, too. In particular, the theory suffers from the ‘problem of large causes’. It is argued that this problem may be fixed by imposing a minimization constraint, whilst this solution brings along substantial costs as well. In particular, (...)
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  • Genidentity and Biological Processes.Thomas Pradeu - 2018 - In Daniel J. Nicholson & John Dupre (eds.), Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology. Oxford University Press.
    A crucial question for a process view of life is how to identify a process and how to follow it through time. The genidentity view can contribute decisively to this project. It says that the identity through time of an entity X is given by a well-identified series of continuous states of affairs. Genidentity helps address the problem of diachronic identity in the living world. This chapter describes the centrality of the concept of genidentity for David Hull and proposes an (...)
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  • Mario Bunge (1919–2020): Conjoining Philosophy of Science and Scientific Philosophy.Martin Mahner - 2021 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 52 (1):3-23.
    The leitmotif of Mario Bunge’s work was that the philosophy of science should be informed by a comprehensive scientific philosophy, and vice versa; with both firmly rooted in realism and materialism. Now Bunge left such a big oeuvre, comprising more than 70 books and hundreds of articles, that it is impossible to review it in its entirety. In addition to biographical remarks, this obituary will therefore restrict itself to some select issues of his philosophy: his scientific metaphysics, his philosophy of (...)
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