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The New Mechanical Philosophy$
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Stuart Glennan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198779711

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198779711.001.0001

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Mechanisms and Causation

Mechanisms and Causation

(p.145) 6 Mechanisms and Causation
The New Mechanical Philosophy

Stuart Glennan

Oxford University Press

This chapter motivates a theory of causation according to which causal claims are existential claims about mechanisms. The chapter begins with a review of the variety of causal claims, emphasizing the differences between singular and general claims, and between claims about causal production and claims about causal relevance. I then argue for singularism—the view that the truth-makers of general causal claims are facts about collections of singular and intrinsic causal relations, and specifically facts about the existence of particular mechanisms. Applying this account, I explore possible truth conditions for causal generalizations. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the relationship between mechanistic and manipulability approaches to causation. I argue that Woodward’s manipulability account provides valuable insights into the meaning of causal claims and the methods we use to assess them, but that the underlying truth-makers for the counterfactuals in that account are in fact mechanisms.

Keywords:   causal production, causal relevance, singularism, causal generalizations, counterfactuals, truth-makers, Woodward

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