Causation in the Social Sciences

Harold Kincaid

in The Oxford Handbook of Causation

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Causation in the Social Sciences

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  • Metaphysics
  • Social and Political Philosophy



Because of the obstacles to experimentation and because of the complexity of the social world, the social sciences present fertile grounds for investigating issues surrounding causation. This article aims to sketch a number of issues and only secondarily argues for particular positions. It approaches the issues that are discussed with some general background assumptions that frame the issues and are also supported by the topics discussed. Those assumptions concern the nature of causal claims in general, more specifically, questions about the extent to which our understanding of causation can be perfectly general. It presents a number of issues about the ontology and epistemology of causation in the social sciences. The general theme is that these issues cannot be decided in the abstract but must pay careful attention to the empirical presuppositions made and the kinds of evidence for them.

Keywords: ontology of causation; epistemology of causation; social sciences; causal claims; teleological causes; truth conditions

Article.  8068 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Social and Political Philosophy

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