Chapter

An Interventionist Approach to Causation in Psychology

John Campbell

in Causal Learning

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780195176803
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199958511 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195176803.003.0005

Series: Oxford Series in Cognitive Development

An Interventionist Approach to Causation in Psychology

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Interventionist analyses make explicit the conception of causation used in experimental science, but have not been applied to the case of mental causation. This chapter addresses some of the basic problems of mental causation in interventionist terms. It proposes a way of finding the “right level” of variables to use in characterizing the causal workings of a system, whether we should be describing causal relations in psychological rather than biological terms. It argues that a notion of “soft” intervention is needed when discussing causation by reasons. Finally, we can make sense of the idea of causation without mechanisms, and we may have to do that when we are considering the outcomes of combinations of psychological and biological variables.

Keywords: causation; mental causation; soft intervention; rationality

Chapter.  6977 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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