Chapter

Explaining Causally

Gurpreet Mahajan

in Explanation and Understanding in the Human Sciences

Third edition

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780198076971
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080403 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198076971.003.0001
Explaining Causally

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This chapter discusses causal explanations. It argues that the notion of cause that is most appropriate for the social sciences is one that undermines the very ground on which causal explanations are frequently privileged and justified. By dissociating explanation from prediction and relinquishing the search for general laws, it renders these explanations incapable of serving the technical interest. Consequently, one is impelled to look beyond causal explanations and explore other ways of the explanation of an occurrence. The social scientist must focus on the dimension of meaning to explain what happened and why it happened—meaning that a particular action had for those agents and the manner in which it was perceived and understood by others. Reference to the dimension of meaning is necessary both to recognize the distinctive nature of the object that the social scientist analyses and to comprehend the specific attributes of a particular social formation.

Keywords: cause; causal explanations; justification of causal explanations; meaning; social sciences; social scientist; social formation

Chapter.  10930 words. 

Subjects: Indian Politics

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