Chapter

Explanation, Absences and Counterfactuals

Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum

in Getting Causes from Powers

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695614
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731952 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695614.003.0006
Explanation, Absences and Counterfactuals

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Various epistemological concerns are addressed in this chapter. Powers can be used for explanation and prediction, using the vector model outlined in Chapter 2. The dispositional view explains, however, how both are defeasible. Along with the lack of necessity in the dispositional account of causation, we can also accept an anti-deductivist view of explanation. This also shows why attempts to circumvent the problem of induction are misconceived. Given the lack of necessity, induction about the natural world should never deliver certainty. This chapter also treats as an epistemological matter so-called causation by absence. Absences are powerless so cannot be true causes. But there are epistemological reasons why we sometimes invoke them. Had the power been there, an effect need not have happened, so we blame the power’s absence. Once we accept this view, it can be extended to the case of counterfactuals for which powers can be the truthmakers.

Keywords: epistemology; explanation; prediction; defeasibility; induction; causation by absence; counterfactuals

Chapter.  11057 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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