The Chances of Explanation

The Chances of Explanation: Causal Explanation in the Social, Medical, and Physical Sciences

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    The Chances of Explanation
    Book Description:

    This book provides a post-positivist theory of deterministic and probabilistic causality that supports both quantitative and qualitative explanations. Features of particular interest include the ability to provide true explanations in contexts where our knowledge is incomplete, a systematic interpretation of causal modeling techniques in the social sciences, and a direct realist view of causal relations that is compatible with a liberal empiricism. The book should be of wide interest to both philosophers and scientists.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6076-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Traditional Causation
    (pp. 3-21)

    Ontology, epistemology, and conceptual analysis constitute the great philosophical triad of causation. When pursuing ontological issues, we try to provide an account of the nature of causation: what differentiates causal relations from noncausal relations and what causal relations, as part of the world, are like. Epistemological interests, in contrast, focus on how causal relationships are discovered, how hypotheses about causal relations are tested and confirmed, when it is justifiable to assert a causal claim, and what kinds of causal inferences might be valid. Conceptual analyses, finally, are concerned with what a term such as ‘causes’ means, with constructing definitions of...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Probabilistic Causation
    (pp. 22-60)

    The following entities are proposed as the basic objects of study:

    1. A systemS.

    2. Properties of, and relating to,S.

    A. A set of state properties forS, characterizing the state that the system is in either before, during, or after a trial.

    B. A set of properties not possessed byS.

    i. Properties (changes in) which can causally influence either the state ofSor properties of kind ii below.¹

    ii. Properties which are effects of (changes in) the state ofSor of properties of kind i above.²

    3. A trialT, performed onS.

    The systemScould...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Cause and Chance
    (pp. 61-97)

    We have argued that a permanent structure underlies the display of relative frequencies. This much should be unsurprising, as should the claim that the distribution of chances depends upon the specifics of that structure. The mass distribution of a coin, commonly called its bias, if shifted, will alter the parameter value of the binomial distribution associated with coin flipping. Change the potential barrier in a radioactive atom by changing its atomic number, and the parameter of the associated exponential distribution (representing the half-life) will change. Chances are ordinarily relational.¹ If one alters the environmental factors, say by increasing the gravitational...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Scientific Explanations
    (pp. 98-142)

    In §3, we considered an example showing how a scientific explanation of a given phenemenon is progressively discovered. This activity of searching for and discovering an explanation of a given effect is something which, although not exclusive to scientific research,¹ is a sufficiently important feature of scientific activity that special methods have been developed to isolate such discoveries. These methods may be experimental, they may use statistical surrogates for experimental controls, or they may use theoretical idealizations to mimic such controls. Which method is used will depend upon a complex of conditions, involving the nature of the subject matter, the...

  8. APPENDIX ONE. Covariance Measures
    (pp. 143-144)
  9. APPENDIX TWO. Extension of the Basic Quantitative Theory
    (pp. 145-152)
  10. APPENDIX THREE. Transitivity and Negative Links
    (pp. 153-157)
    (pp. 158-166)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 167-170)