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Understanding Counterfactuals, Understanding CausationIssues in Philosophy and Psychology$
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Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack, and Sarah R. Beck

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199590698

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199590698.001.0001

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Perceptual Causality, Counterfactuals, and Special Causal Concepts

Perceptual Causality, Counterfactuals, and Special Causal Concepts

(p.75) 3 Perceptual Causality, Counterfactuals, and Special Causal Concepts
Understanding Counterfactuals, Understanding Causation

Johannes Roessler

Oxford University Press

In this paper I contrast two views of causal understanding: a ‘particularist’ view, on which causal understanding is, partly but irreducibly, a matter of grasping what Anscombe called special causal concepts, vs a ‘generalist’ view, on which causal understanding consists in mastering the general concept of causation. I begin by formulating an intuitively attractive version of particularism due to P.F. Strawson, a central element of which is what I will call naïve realism concerning mechanical transactions. I present the account with two challenges. Both challenges reflect the worry that Strawson’s particularism may be unable to acknowledge the connection between causation and counterfactuals, as articulated by the interventionist approach to causation. I argue that Strawson’s naïve realism can accept what interventionism has to say about ordinary causal understanding.

Keywords:   causation, counterfactuals, interventionism, perceptual causality, naive realism, special causal concepts

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