Counterfactuals and causal explanation

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (1):41 – 72 (2002)
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Abstract

This article defends the use of interventionist counterfactuals to elucidate causal and explanatory claims against criticisms advanced by James Bogen and Peter Machamer. Against Bogen, I argue that counterfactual claims concerning what would happen under interventions are meaningful and have determinate truth values, even in a deterministic world. I also argue, against both Machamer and Bogen, that we need to appeal to counterfactuals to capture the notions like causal relevance and causal mechanism. Contrary to what both authors suppose, counterfactuals are not "unscientific" - a substantial tradition within statistics and the causal modelling literature makes heavy use of them.

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James Woodward
University of Pittsburgh

Citations of this work

Three kinds of new mechanism.Arnon Levy - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (1):99-114.
Causally productive activities.Jim Bogen - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (1):112-123.
Singular and General Causal Relations: A Mechanist Perspective.Stuart Glennan - 2011 - In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press.

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References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Nature's capacities and their measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Thinking about mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.

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