Scientific Realism is the optimistic view that modern science is on the right track: that the world really is the way our best scientific theories describe it to be. In his book, Stathis Psillos gives us a detailed and comprehensive study, which restores the intuitive plausibility of scientific realism. We see that throughout the twentieth century, scientific realism has been challenged by philosophical positions from all angles: from reductive empiricism, to instrumentalism and modern skeptical empiricism. Scientific Realism explains that the (...) history of science does not undermine the notion of scientific realism, and instead makes it reasonable to accept scientific as the best philosophical account of science, its empirical success, its progress and its practice. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the state of modern science and why scientific realism is plausible, should read this book. (shrink)
Scientific realism is the optimistic view that modern science is on the right track: that the world really is the way our best scientific theories describe it. In his book, Stathis Psillos gives us a detailed and comprehensive study which restores the intuitive plausibility of scientific realism. We see that throughout the twentieth century, scientific realism has been challenged by philosophical positions from all angles: from reductive empiricism, to instrumentalism and to modern sceptical empiricism. _Scientific Realism_ explains that the history (...) of science does not undermine the arguments for scientific realism, but instead makes it reasonable to accept scientific realism as the best philosophical account of science, its empirical success, its progress and its practice. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the state of modern science and why scientific realism is plausible, should read this book. (shrink)
In the section on laws of nature, Psillos considers both the regularity view of laws and laws as relations among universals as well as alternative approaches to laws. In the final section on explanation he examines in detail the issues arising from deductive-nomological explanation and statistical explanation before considering the explanation of laws and the metaphysics of explanation. Accessible to students of all levels the author provides an excellent introduction to one of the most enduring problems of philosophy.
Non-Humean accounts of the metaphysics of nature posit either laws or powers in order to account for natural necessity and world-order. We argue that such monistic views face fundamental problems. On the one hand, neo-Aristotelians cannot give unproblematic power-based accounts of the functional laws among quantities offered by physical theories, as well as of the place of conservation laws and symmetries in a lawless ontology; in order to capture these characteristics, commitment to governing laws is indispensable. On the other hand, (...) ontologies that entirely exclude some kind of power ascription to worldly entities face what we call the Governing Problem: such ontologies do not have the resources to give an adequate account of how laws play their governing role. We propose a novel dualist model, which, we argue, has the resources to solve the difficulties encountered by its two dominant competitors, without inheriting the problems of either view. According to the dualist model, both laws and powers are equally fundamental and irreducible to each other, and both are needed in order to give a satisfactory account of the nomological structure of the world. The dualist model constitutes thus a promising alternative to current monistic views in the metaphysics of science. (shrink)
What is the nature of causation? How is causation linked with explanation? And can there be an adequate theory of explanation? These questions and many others are addressed in this unified and rigorous examination of the philosophical problems surrounding causation, laws and explanation. Part 1 of this book explores Hume's views on causation, theories of singular causation, and counterfactual and mechanistic approaches. Part 2 considers the regularity view of laws and laws as relations among universals, as well as recent alternative (...) approaches to laws. Part 3 examines the issues arising from deductive-nomological explanation, statistical explanation, the explanation of laws and the metaphysics of explanation. Accessible to readers of all levels, this book provides an excellent introduction to one of the most enduring problems of philosophy. (shrink)
This paper is structured around the three elements of the title. Section 2 claims that (a) structures need objects and (b) scientific structuralism should focus on in re structures. Therefore, pure structuralism is undermined. Section 3 discusses whether the world has `excess structure' over the structure of appearances. The main point is that the claim that only structure can be known is false. Finally, Section 4 argues directly against ontic structural realism that it lacks the resources to accommodate causation within (...) its structuralist slogan. (shrink)
This paper examines in detail two paths that lead to Structural Realism (SR), viz. a substantive philosophical position which asserts that only the structure of the world is knowable. The upward path is any attempt to begin with empiricist premises and reach a sustainable realist position. (It has been advocated by Russell, Weyl, and Maxwell among others.) The downward path is any attempt to start from realist premises and construct a weaker realist position. (It has been recently advocated by Worrall, (...) French, and Ladyman.) This paper unravels and criticizes the metaphysical presuppositions of both paths to SR. It questions its very possibility as a substantive-and viable-realist thesis. (shrink)
In a recent series of papers, John Worrall has defended and elaborated a philosophical position – traced back to Poincaré– which he calls structural realism. This view stands in between scientific realism and agnostic instrumentalism and intends to accommodate both the intuitions that underwrite the ‘no miracles’ argument for scientific realism and the existence of scientific revolutions which lead to radical theoretical changes. Structural realism presents itself as the best of both worlds. In this paper I critically examine the epistemic (...) status of structural realism, and argue that it is not the best of both worlds. Yet, I stress that it reveals an insight which, properly understood, can cast new light on the debates over scientific realism. (shrink)
A natural way to think of models is as abstract entities. If theories employ models to represent the world, theories traffic in abstract entities much more widely than is often assumed. This kind of thought seems to create a problem for a scientific realist approach to theories. Scientific realists claim theories should be understood literally. Do they then imply the reality of abstract entities? Or are theories simply—and incurably—false? Or has the very idea of literal understanding to be abandoned? Is (...) then fictionalism towards scientific theories inevitable? This paper argues that scientific realism can happily co-exist with models qua abstracta. (shrink)
In the present paper, I offer a conceptual argument against the view that all properties are pure powers. I claim that thinking of all properties as pure powers leads to a regress. The regress, I argue, can be solved only if non-powers are admitted. The kernel of my thesis is that any attempt to answer the title question in an informative way will undermine a pure-power view of properties. In particular, I focus my critique on recent arguments in favour of (...) pure powers by the Late George Molnar and Jennifer McKitrick. The lines of defence of the friends of powers converge on what I call 'the ultimate argument for powers', viz., that current physics entails (or supports) the view that the fundamental properties (spin, mass, charge) are ungrounded powers. I take issue with this argument and make a modest suggestion: that the evidence from current physics is inconclusive. (shrink)
This paper examines in detail two paths that lead to Structural Realism, viz. a substantive philosophical position which asserts that only the structure of the world is knowable. The upward path is any attempt to begin with empiricist premises and reach a sustainable realist position. The downward path is any attempt to start from realist premises and construct a weaker realist position. This paper unravels and criticizes the metaphysical presuppositions of both paths to SR. It questions its very possibility as (...) a substantive—and viable—realist thesis. (shrink)
There has been an empiricist tradition in the core of Logical Positivism/Empiricism, starting with Moritz Schlick and ending in Herbert Feigl (via Hans Reichenbach), according to which the world of empiricism need not be a barren place devoid of all the explanatory entities posited by scientific theories. The aim of this paper is to articulate this tradition and to explore ways in which its key elements can find a place in the contemporary debate over scientific realism. It presents a way (...) empiricism can go for scientific realism without metaphysical anxiety, by developing an indispensability argument for the adoption of the realist framework. This argument, unlike current realist arguments, has a pragmatic ring to it: there is no ultimate argument for the adoption of the realist framework. (shrink)
In this survey article I try to appraise the present state of the scientific realism debate with an eye to important but hitherto unexplored suggestions and open issues that need further work. In section 2, I shall mostly focus on the relation between scientific realism and truth. In section 3, I shall discuss the grounds for the realists’ epistemic optimism.
Among the current philosophical attempts to understand causation two seem to be the most prominent. The first is James Woodward’s counterfactual approach; the second is the mechanistic approach advocated by Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, Carl Craver, Jim Bogen and Stuart Glennan. The counterfactual approach takes it that causes make a difference to their effects, where this difference-making is cashed out in terms of actual and counterfactual interventions. The mechanistic approach takes it that two events are causally related if and only (...) if there is a mechanism that connects them. On the face of it, the two approaches need not be in conflict. The mechanisms might satisfy (or depend on) certain interventionist counterfactuals and, conversely, the interventionist counterfactuals might be made true by the presence of certain mechanisms. But, overall, both approaches tend to be imperialistic. Advocates of each argue that their own approach fairs much better than their opponents’. The question then is this: are we forced to choose between the mechanistic approach and the counterfactual one? In this paper, I argue that, as they stand, both approaches face some important problems that need to be fixed. I shall also argue that there is a sense in which the counterfactual approach is more basic than the mechanistic, though the former will benefit from a better understanding of the mechanisms that are at work in causal connections. So both approaches can work together to offer a better understanding of causation. If they work in tandem, they can offer us a glimpse of what Hume famously called “the secret connexion”. But in so far as the ‘secret connexion’ is an intrinsic relation between the causal relata, neither of the above approaches tells us what this relation is. (shrink)
This paper advances the thesis of methodological mechanism, the claim that to be committed to mechanism is to adopt a certain methodological postulate, i.e. to look for causal pathways for the phenomena of interest. We argue that methodological mechanism incorporates a minimal account of understanding mechanisms, according to which a mechanism just is a causal pathway described in the language of theory. In order to argue for this position we discuss a central example of a biological mechanism, the mechanism of (...) cell death, known as apoptosis. We argue that this example shows that our philosophically deflationary account is sufficient in order to have an illuminating account of mechanisms as the concept is used in biology. (shrink)
Traditionally, philosophers have focused mostly on the logical template of inference. The paradigm-case has been deductive inference, which is topic-neutral and context-insensitive. The study of deductive rules has engendered the search for the Holy Grail: syntactic and topic-neutral accounts of all prima facie reasonable inferential rules. The search has hoped to find rules that are transparent and algorithmic, and whose following will just be a matter of grasping their logical form. Part of the search for the Holy Grail has been (...) to show that the so-called scientific method can be formalised in a topic-neutral way. We are all familiar with Carnap’s inductive logic, or Popper’s deductivism or the Bayesian account of scientific method. (shrink)
I began this study with Laudan's argument from the pessimistic induction and I promised to show that the caloric theory of heat cannot be used to support the premisses of the meta-induction on past scientific theories. I tried to show that the laws of experimental calorimetry, adiabatic change and Carnot's theory of the motive power of heat were independent of the assumption that heat is a material substance, approximately true, deducible and accounted for within thermodynamics.I stressed that results and were (...) known to most theorists of the caloric theory and that result was put forward by the founders of the new thermodynamics. In other words, the truth-content of the caloric theory was located, selected carefully, and preserved by the founders of thermodynamics.However, the reader might think that even if I have succeeded in showing that laudan is wrong about the caloric theory, I have not shown how the strategy followed in this paper can be generalised against the pessimistic meta-induction. I think that the general strategy against Laudan's argument suggested in this paper is this: the empirical success of a mature scientific theory suggests that there are respects and degrees in which this theory is true. The difficulty for — and and real challenge to — philosophers of science is to suggest ways in which this truth-content can be located and shown to be preserved — if at all — to subsequent theories. In particular, the empirical success of a theory does not, automatically, suggest that all theoretical terms of the theory refer. On the contrary, judgments of referential success depend on which theoretical claims are well-supported by the evidence. This is a matter of specific investigation. Generally, one would expect that claims about theoretical entities which are not strongly supported by the evidence or turn out to be independent of the evidence at hand, are not compelling. For simply, if the evidence does not make it likely that our beliefs about putative theoretical entities are approximately correct, a belief in those entities would be ill-founded and unjustified. Theoretical extrapolations in science are indespensable, but they are not arbitrary. If the evidence does not warrant them I do not see why someone should commit herself to them. In a sense, the problem with empricist philisophers is not that they demand that theoretical beliefs must be warranted by evidence. Rather, it is that they claim that no evidence can warrant theorretical beliefs. A realist philosopher of science would not disagree on the first, but she has good grounds to deny the second.I argued that claims about theoretical entities which are not strongly supported by the evidence must not be taken as belief-worthy. But can one sustaon the more ambitious view that loosely supported parts of a theory tend to be just those that include non-referring terms? There is an obvious excess risk in such a generalisation. For there are well-known cases in which a theoretical claim was initially weakly supported by the evidence. (shrink)
Rudolf Carnap delivered the hitherto unpublished lecture ‘Theoretical Concepts in Science’ at the meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Paciﬁc Division, at Santa Barbara, California, on 29 December 1959. It was part of a symposium on ‘Carnap’s views on Theoretical Concepts in Science’. In the bibliography that appears in the end of the volume, ‘The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap’, edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp, a revised version of this address appears to be among Carnap’s forthcoming papers. But although Carnap started (...) to revise it, he never ﬁnished the revision,1 and never published the unrevised transcript. Perhaps this is because variants of the approach to theoretical concepts presented for the ﬁrst time in the Santa Barbara lecture have appeared in other papers of his (cf. the editorial footnotes in Carnap’s lecture). Still, I think, the Santa Barbara address is a little philosophical gem that needs to see the light of day. The document that follows is the unrevised transcript of Carnap’s lecture.2 Its style, then, is that of an oral presentation. I decided to leave it as it is, making only very minor stylistic changes—which, except those related to punctuation, are indicated by curly brackets.3 I think that reading this lecture is a rewarding experience, punctuated as the lecture is with odd remarks and autobiographical points. One can almost envisage.. (shrink)
RÉSUMÉDans cette contribution, les points fondamentaux du livre d'Anjan Chakravartty, Scientific Ontology, sont discutés de manière critique. Après une brève présentation du projet d'une ontologie dite «stance-based», je critique la manière dont Chakravartty conçoit l'inférence métaphysique. Puis, dans la section 4, je conteste l'opinion de Chakravartty selon laquelle les débats fondamentaux en métaphysique conduisent inévitablement à un désaccord insoluble. La section 5 examine le concept de position épistémique et relève les problèmes inhérents à la manière dont Chakravartty conçoit la rationalité (...) de la sélection d'une position. Finalement, la section 6 concerne les implications d'une ontologie qui serait basée sur les positions épistémiques pour le débat sur le réalisme scientifique. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is to sketch an empiricist metaphysics of laws of nature. The key idea is that there are regularities without regularity-enforcers. Differently put, there are natural laws without law-makers _of a distinct metaphysical kind_. This sketch will rely on the concept of a natural pattern and more significantly on the existence of a network of natural patterns in nature. The relation between a regularity and a pattern will be analysed in terms of mereology. Here is the (...) road map. In section 2, I will briefly discuss the relation between empiricism and metaphysics, aiming to show that an empiricist metaphysics is possible. In section 3, I will offer arguments against stronger metaphysical views of laws. Then, in section 4 I will motivate nomic objectivism. In section 5, I will address the question ‘what is a regularity?’ and will develop a novel answer to it, based on the notion of a natural pattern. In section 6, I will raise the question: ‘what is a law of nature?’, the answer to which will be: a law of nature is a regularity that is characterised by the unity of a _natural_ pattern. (shrink)
This paper aims to cast light on the reasons that explain the shift of opinion—from scepticism to realism—concerning the reality of atoms and molecules in the beginning of the twentieth century, in light of Jean Perrin’s theoretical and experimental work on the Brownian movement. The story told has some rather interesting repercussions for the rationality of accepting the reality of explanatory posits. Section 2 presents the key philosophical debate concerning the role and status of explanatory hypotheses c. 1900, focusing on (...) the work of Duhem, Stallo, Ostwald, Poincaré and Boltzmann. Section 3 examines in detail Perrin’s theoretical account of the molecular origins of Brownian motion, reconstructs the structure and explains the strength of Perrin’s argument for the reality of molecules. Section 4 draws three important lessons for the current debate over scientific realism. (shrink)
Over the last two decades, the debate over scientific realism has been dominated by two arguments that pull in contrary directions: the 'no miracle' argument and the 'pessimistic induction'. The latter suggests that the historical record destroys the realist's belief in an explanatory connection between truthlikeness and genuine empirical success. This paper analyzes the structure of the 'pessimistic induction', presents a move--the divide et impera move--that neutralizes it, and motivates a substantive yet realistic version of scientific realism. This move is (...) also compared with Worrall's and Kitcher's recent reactions to the 'pessimistic induction'. (shrink)
Ontic Structural Realism (OSR) gives ontic priority to structures over objects. In its perhaps most extreme form (captured, admittedly, by a slogan) it states that “all that there is, is structure” (da Costa and French 2003, 189). If this is true, if there is nothing but structure(s) in the world, the very idea of contrasting structure to nonstructure loses any force it might have. Actually, if the slogan is right, the very idea of characterising what there is as structure—as opposed (...) to anything else—becomes incoherent. Traditionally, characterising something as a structure has made full sense —and has served excellent scientific and philosophical purposes—precisely because structure was understood as an entity with slots, which could be occupied by objects and whose individuation-conditions involved objects only qua slot-fillers. If objects altogether go, whatever remains can be called ‘structure’ only if we take ‘structure’ to be a term of art. Well, Ontic Structuralists are happy to ‘mimic’ talk of non-structure, or objects in particular, but they hasten to add that this mimicking does not imply any serious metaphysical commitment to them. Here are a couple of characteristic passages. (shrink)
Based on archival material from the Carnap and FeiglArchives, this paper re-examines Carnap's approach tothe issue of scientific realism in the 1950s and theearly 1960s. It focuses on Carnap's re-invention ofthe Ramsey-sentence approach to scientific theoriesand argues that Carnap wanted to entertain a genuineneutral stance in the realism-instrumentalism debate.Following Grover Maxwell, it claims that Carnap'sposition may be best understood as a version of`structural realism'. However, thus understood,Carnap's position faces the challenge that Newmanraised against Russell's structuralism: the claim thatthe knowledge of (...) the unobservable is limited to itspurely structural characteristics is eitheruninformative or unsustainable. (shrink)
The very idea of a general philosophy of science relies on the assumption that there is this thing called science —as opposed to the various individual sciences. In this programmatic piece I make a case for the claim that general philosophy of science is the philosophy of science in general or science as such. Part of my narrative makes use of history, for two reasons. First, general philosophy of science is itself characterised by an intellectual tradition which aimed to develop (...) a coherent philosophical view of science, qua a part of culture with distinctive epistemic features and a distinctive relation to reality. But, second, this tradition went through some important conceptual shifts which re-oriented it and made it more sensitive to the actual development of science itself. The historical narrative focuses on three such moments: the defining moment, associated with Aristotle, and two major conceptual turns, related to Kant and Duhem. The pressures on the very idea of a general philosophy of science that followed the collapse of the macro-models of science that became popular in the 1960s, the pressures that lay all of the emphasis on fragmentation and not on integration, can be dealt with by a new synthesis within general philosophy of science of the constitutive and the historical, in light of the intellectual tradition that has defined it. (shrink)
When we think of scientific realism, there seem to be to ways to conceive of what it is about. The first is to see it as a view about scientific theories; the second is to see it as a view about the world. Some philosophers, most typically from Australia, think that the second way is the correct way. Scientific realism, they argue, is a metaphysical thesis: it asserts the reality of some types of entity, most typically, unobservable entities. I agree (...) that scientific realism has a metaphysical dimension, but I have insisted that it has other dimensions too. In my (1999), I took scientific realism to consist of three theses (or stances). (shrink)
Niiniluoto has offered an incisive and comprehensive review of the recent debates about abduction. There is little on which I disagree with him. So, in this commentary, I shall try to cast some doubts to the attempts to render Inference to the Best Explanation within a Bayesian framework.
This essay offers a critical review of Steven French's The Structure of the World: Metaphysics & Representation. I challenge some of the reasons that French adduces against ‘thick’ objects as well as his conception of laws—which I think is problematic.
No doubt my earlier paper has struck a sensitive nerve among existing and prospective constructive empiricists – hence their united reply.1 I shall, for brevity, introduce an imaginary single author of their critique and call him CE. In this rejoinder, I try to show, first, that CE’s counter-arguments do not refute my original arguments; and second, that a claim of CE’s paper is very close to the conclusion of my original paper. A central point of my original piece was that (...) there is a symmetry between scientific realism and constructive empiricism vis à vis van Fraassen’s arguments from the bad lot and from indifference. Scholastic charges of an ‘apparent misunderstanding’ of ‘empirical adequacy’ do not cast any light on the issues at stake. (However, the notion of empirical adequacy I employed, p. 41, is the standard one: ‘a theory is empirically adequate if and only if it saves all phenomena, past, present and future, and squares with all actual and possible observations’.) The issue between CE and myself is more substantive: CE relies on the thesis that for any theory there are ‘indefinitely many empirically equivalent rivals’ (p. 307), in order to infer that there are infinitely many empirically adequate theories, and then to argue that if realists.. (shrink)
This paper is meant to link the philosophical debate concerning the underdetermination of theories by evidence with a rather significant socio-political issue that has been taking place in Canada over the past few years: the so-called ‘death of evidence’ controversy. It places this debate within a broader philosophical framework by discussing the connection between evidence and theory; by bringing out the role of epistemic values in the so-called scientific method; and by examining the role of social values in science. While (...) it should be admitted that social values play an important role in science, the key question for anyone who advocates this view is: what and whose values? The way it is answered makes an important epistemic difference to how the relation between evidence and theory is appraised. I first review various arguments for the claim that evidence underdetermines theory and shows their presuppositions and limitations, using conceptual analysis and historical examples. After broaching the relation between evidence and method in science by highlighting the need to incorporate epistemic values into the scientific method, my discussion focuses on recent arguments for the role of social values in science. Finally, I address the implications of the approach outlined for the current ‘death of evidence’ debate in Canada. (shrink)
This Introduction has two foci: the first is a discussion of the motivation for and the aims of the 2014 conference on New Thinking about Scientific Realism in Cape Town South Africa, and the second is a brief contextualization of the contributed articles in this special issue of Synthese in the framework of the conference. Each focus is discussed in a separate section.
In this chapter we examine the relation between mechanisms and laws/counterfactuals by revisiting the main notions of mechanism found in the literature. We distinguish between two different conceptions of ‘mechanism’: mechanisms-of underlie or constitute a causal process; mechanisms-for are complex systems that function so as to produce a certain behavior. According to some mechanists, a mechanism fulfills both of these roles simultaneously. The main argument of the chapter is that there is an asymmetrical dependence between both kinds of mechanisms and (...) laws/counterfactuals: while some laws and counterfactuals must be taken as primitive (non-mechanistic) facts of the world, all mechanisms depend on laws/counterfactuals. (shrink)
Philosophy of science has always been an integral part of philosophy, and since the beginning of the 20h century it has developed its own structure and its fair share of technical vocabulary and problems. Philosophy of Science A-Z gives you concise, accurate and illuminating accounts of key positions, concepts, arguments and figures in the philosophy of science. It helps you to understand the current debates, explains their historical development and connects them with broader philosophical issues. It presupposes little prior knowledge (...) of philosophy of science and is equally useful to students coming to the subject for the first time and for more advanced scholars who need to look up particular terms or figures. You will find illuminating explanations, careful analysis, relevant examples, open problems and precise arguments. Philosophy of science is a flourishing discipline and Philosophy of Science A-Z is a practical and imaginative way into and through it. (shrink)
This indispensable reference source and guide to the major themes, debates, problems and topics in philosophy of science contains fifty-five specially commissioned entries by a leading team of international contributors. Organized into four parts it covers: historical and philosophical context debates concepts the individual sciences. The _Companion_ covers everything students of philosophy of science need to know - from empiricism, explanation and experiment to causation, observation, prediction and more - and contains many helpful features including: a section on the individual (...) sciences, including chapters on the philosophy of biology, chemistry, physics and psychology, further reading and cross-referencing at the end of each chapter. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to rebut two major criticisms of the No-Miracles Argument for Realism. The first comes from Musgrave. The second comes from Colin Howson. Interestingly enough, these criticisms are the mirror image of each other. Yet, they both point to the conclusion that NMA is fallacious. Musgrave’s misgiving against NMA is that if it is seen as an inference to the best explanation, it is deductively fallacious. Being a deductivist, he tries to correct it by turning (...) it into a valid deductive argument. Howson’s misgiving against NMA is that if it is seen as an inference to the best explanation, it is inductively fallacious. Being a subjective Bayesian, he tries to correct it by turning it into a sound subjective Bayesian argument. I will argue that both criticisms are unwarranted. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss the prospects of nominalistic scientific realism and show that it fails on many counts. In section 2, I discuss what is required for NSR to get off the ground. In section 3, I question the idea that theories have well-defined nominalistic content and the idea that causal activity is a necessary condition for commitment to the reality of an entity. In section 4, I challenge the notion of nominalistic adequacy of theories.
: Among the current philosophical accounts of causation two are the most prominent. The first is James Woodward's interventionist counterfactual approach; the second is the mechanistic approach advocated by Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, Carl Craver, Jim Bogen and Stuart Glennan. Thecounterfactual approach takes it that causes make a difference to their effects, where this difference-making is cashed out in terms of actual and counterfactual interventions. The mechanistic approach takes it that two events are causally related if and only if there (...) is a mechanism that connects them. In this paper I examine them both in some detail. After pointing out some important problems that both approaches face, I argue that there is a sense in which the counterfactual approach is more basic than the mechanistic one in that a proper account of mechanisms depends on counterfactuals while counterfactuals need not be supported (or depend on) mechanisms. Nonetheless, I also argue that if both approaches work in tandem in practice, they can offer us a better understanding of aspects of Hume's secret connexion and hence a glimpse of it. (shrink)