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Causality in the Sciences$
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Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo, and Jon Williamson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199574131

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.001.0001

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The causal‐process‐model theory of mechanisms

The causal‐process‐model theory of mechanisms

Chapter:
(p.865) 40 The causal‐process‐model theory of mechanisms
Source:
Causality in the Sciences
Author(s):

Phil Dowe

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.003.0040

Wesley Salmon and the author of this chapter have argued that causation and causal explanation need to appeal to causal processes understood in terms of conserved quantities. This has the consequence of ruling out absence ‘causation’ as being genuine causation. Carl Craver has argued persuasively that absences are crucial in causal explanations in neuroscience, and so he gives an account of mechanisms in terms of causal relevance where the latter is understood along the lines of causal modelling. This allows for absences to be causes and hence to feature in causal explanations, but it is not compatible with the claim that causal explanation needs to appeal to causal processes understood in terms of conserved quantities. This chapter therefore offers an account of mechanisms, in particular the role of causal relevance in mechanisms, which can respect the theory that causation involves causal processes understood in terms of conserved quantities, but which also allows absences to figure in causal explanation.

Keywords:   causation, absence causation, mechanisms, neuroscience, conserved quantity theory

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