Causation and Explanation in Social Science

Henry E. Brady

in The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199286546
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191577307 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Causation and Explanation in Social Science

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This article provides an overview of causal thinking by characterizing four approaches to causal inference. It also describes the INUS model. It specifically presents a user-friendly synopsis of philosophical and statistical musings about causation. The four approaches to causality include neo-Humean regularity, counterfactual, manipulation and mechanisms, and capacities. A counterfactual is a statement, typically in the subjunctive mood, in which a false or ‘counter to fact’ premise is followed by some assertion about what would have happened if the premise were true. Three basic questions about causality are then addressed. Moreover, the article gives a review of four approaches of what causality might be. It pays attention on a counterfactual definition, mostly amounting to a recipe that is now widely used in statistics. It ends with a discussion of the limitations of the recipe and how far it goes toward solving the epistemological and ontological problems.

Keywords: causation; causal inference; INUS model; counterfactual; statistics

Article.  27284 words. 

Subjects: Political Methodology ; Comparative Politics

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