On Causal Mechanisms

Hi all,

I continue to encourage you to post your own powers-related thoughts, news of your own work and news of all manner of related resource.  I’ve made categories that allow you to just “Reply” so that the posts don’t necessarily have to run through me.  For my own part, I got Skyped into a conference last week, hosted by Rani Lill Anjum, in Oslo, on causation and science.  I gave a talk called “What Exactly is a Causal Mechanism, Again?” on the conclusion of this paper (link below), which is headed for an anthology to be edited by Phil Gorski, a powers-friendly sociologist at Yale.  The paper has to do with the notion of a causal mechanism as it figures in the philosophy and methodology of social science, and with how clear it is that much (though not all) of the relevant literature is quite problematic philosophically.

The point that I work up to in the paper is that there isn’t really any such thing as a causal mechanism.  There are just some important questions about causation (& about causal explanation) that have not yet been systematically theorized from a powers perspective, questions that get swept under the carpet, as it were, except for that the carpet is the concept of a causal mechanism.  We powers types have to be able to respond philosophically to the statement “I know that A caused B, but that doesn’t tell me how it did it.  For that I need the causal mechanism.”  We need to be able to take this idea apart and put it back together correctly, minus the pseudo-entity.  And all kinds of things need to be worked out in order to do so.

In any case, this paper is mostly a matter of ground clearing.  Comments welcome.  I may see if I can get someone to Officially Reply, too.  Stay tooned.  And let’s hear from you.  [WAIT: THE SENTENCE ON P.2, ENDING IN “IN VIRTUE OF THEIR ABILITY TO PHI …” IS AN MISTAKEN SMASH UP OF TWO EARLIER SENTENCES!  PLEASE IGNORE OBVIOUS CIRCULARITY!!]

Causal Mechanisms & Phil of Causation, edit 5

This entry was posted in Causation, Metaphysics & social theory, Methodology, Publicize your work. Bookmark the permalink.

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