Causation in Classical Mechanics

Marc Lange

in The Oxford Handbook of Causation

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199279739
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191577246 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Causation in Classical Mechanics

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Russell might be interpreted as arguing that physics reveals there to be no causal relations since physics has no need to posit them (just as Laplace said to Napoleon that physics has no need to posit God). Of course, whether physics needs to posit causal relations depends upon what physics needs to do. Russell appears to presume that a physical theory needs merely to predict certain quantities from others. For that purpose, the bare equations suffice. However, it is doubtful that the bare equations are enough to fund scientific explanations. The force on a body and the body's mass apparently explain why the body undergoes a given acceleration, whereas the force and acceleration do not explain why the body possesses a certain mass.

Keywords: causal relations; classical mechanics; physics; scientific explanations; Russell; physical theory

Article.  5326 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics ; Philosophy of Science

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