Chapter

Why Ask, “Why?”?

Wesley C. Salmon

in Causality and Explanation

Published in print May 1998 | ISBN: 9780195108644
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833627 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195108647.003.0009
Why Ask, “Why?”?

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Attempts to provide the general outlines of a causal theory of scientific explanation that can incorporate the virtues of both the standard inferential view and previous causal accounts. The new theory relies heavily upon a distinction between causal processes and causal interactions, and upon the principle of the common cause. Two types of causal forks, conjunctive and interactive, are distinguished; each is seen to have a distinct function in the account of scientific explanation. The common cause principle is invoked to show how unobservable entities play a fundamental explanatory role, thereby clarifying the explanatory power of theories.

Keywords: causal process; causation; common cause; conjunctive fork; explanation; interaction; interactive fork

Chapter.  9460 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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