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Making Things HappenA Theory of Causal Explanation$
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James Woodward

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195155273

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195155270.001.0001

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A Counterfactual Theory of Causal Explanation

A Counterfactual Theory of Causal Explanation

Chapter:
(p.187) 5 A Counterfactual Theory of Causal Explanation
Source:
Making Things Happen
Author(s):

James Woodward (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0195155270.003.0005

This sets out my positive account of causal explanation. According to this account, successful explanations must answer what-if-things-had-been-different questions: they must cite conditions such that changes in those conditions (produced by interventions) are associated with changes in the phenomenon being explained. It follows from this account that nomothetic models of explanation according to which laws are required for sucessful explanation are mistaken. This is a highly desirable result since explanations that do not cite laws are common in the special sciences. Explanation has to do with the exhibition of relations of dependency, not with nomic subsumption.

Keywords:   what-if-things-had- been-different question, nomothetic models, special sciences, nomic subsumption

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