A Counterfactual Theory of Causal Explanation

James Woodward

in Making Things Happen

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780195155273
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835089 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Science

 						A Counterfactual Theory of Causal Explanation

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This sets out my positive account of causal explanation. According to this account, successful explanations must answer what-if-things-had-been-different questions: they must cite conditions such that changes in those conditions (produced by interventions) are associated with changes in the phenomenon being explained. It follows from this account that nomothetic models of explanation according to which laws are required for sucessful explanation are mistaken. This is a highly desirable result since explanations that do not cite laws are common in the special sciences. Explanation has to do with the exhibition of relations of dependency, not with nomic subsumption.

Keywords: what-if-things-had- been-different question; nomothetic models; special sciences; nomic subsumption

Chapter.  26774 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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