Explanation and Manipulation

Noûs 51 (3):484-520 (2017)
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I argue that manipulationist theories of causation fail as accounts of causal structure, and thereby as theories of “actual causation” and causal explanation. I focus on two kinds of problem cases, which I call “Perceived Abnormality Cases” and “Ontological Dependence Cases.” The cases illustrate that basic facts about social systems—that individuals are sensitive to perceived abnormal conditions and that certain actions metaphysically depend on institutional rules—pose a challenge for manipulationist theories and for counterfactual theories more generally. I then show how law-based accounts of causal structure can answer such challenges. The moral of the story is that the basic manipulationist idea that our interest in causal structure is driven by our interest in manipulating our environment faces decisive problems in a central domain of application, the social sciences.



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References found in this work

Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):201-202.
Two concepts of causation.Ned Hall - 2004 - In John Collins, Ned Hall & Laurie Paul (eds.), Causation and Counterfactuals. MIT Press. pp. 225-276.
Interventionism and Causal Exclusion.James Woodward - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (2):303-347.

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