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Alexandrova, Anna, and . Making Models Count

2008, Philosophy of Science 75(3): 383-404.

Abstract: What sort of claims do scientific models make and how do these claims then underwrite empirical successes such as explanations and reliable policy interventions? In this paper I propose answers to these questions for the class of models used throughout the social and biological sciences, namely idealized deductive ones with a causal interpretation. I argue that the two main existing accounts misrepresent how these models are actually used, and propose a new account.

Comment: A good exploration of the role of models in scientific practice. Provides a good overview of the main theories about models, and some objections to them, before suggesting an alternative. Good use of concrete examples, presented very clearly. Suitable for undergraduate teaching. Would form a useful part of an examination of modelling in philosophy of science.

Anjum, Rani Lill, and Stephen Mumford. Causation: A Very Short Introduction

2013, Oxford University Press

Publisher’s Note: Causation is the most fundamental connection in the universe. Without it, there would be no science or technology. There would be no moral responsibility either, as none of our thoughts would be connected with our actions and none of our actions with any consequences. Nor would we have a system of law because blame resides only in someone having caused injury or damage.

Any intervention we make in the world around us is premised on there being causal connections that are, to a degree, predictable. It is causation that is at the basis of prediction and also explanation. This Very Short Introduction introduces the key theories of causation and also the surrounding debates and controversies. Do causes produce their effects by guaranteeing them? Do causes have to precede their effects? Can causation be reduced to the forces of physics? And are we right to think of causation as one single thing at all?

Comment: This would be a useful introductory text in a course on metaphysics, philosophy of science, or any course in which philosophical accounts of causation are relevant. Individual chapters could be used as primers for separate topics as well as the book as a whole. Suitable for undergraduates of all levels.

Anjum, Rani Lill, and Stephen Mumford. A Powerful Theory of Causation

2010, In Anna Marmodoro (ed.) The Metaphysics of Powers, Routledge (2010): 143-59.

Abstract: Hume thought that if you believed in powers, you believed in necessary connections in nature. He was then able to argue that there were none such because anything could follow anything else. But Hume wrong-footed his opponents. A power does not necessitate its manifestations: rather, it disposes towards them in a way that is less than necessary but more than purely contingent. In this paper a dispositional theory of causation is offered. Causes dispose towards their effects and often produce them. But a set of causes, even though they may succeed in producing an effect, cannot necessitate it since the effect could have been counteracted by some additional power. This would require a separation of our concepts of causal production and causal necessitation. The most conspicuous cases of causation are those where powers accumulate and pass a requisite threshold for an effect to occur. We develop a model for representing powers as constituent vectors within an n-dimensional quality space, where composition of causes appears as vector addition. Even our resultant vector, however, has to be understood as having dispositional force only. This model throws new light on causal modality and cases of prevention, causation by absence and probabilistic causation.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics, philosophy of science, or any course in which philosophical accounts of causation are relevant. This paper has the benefit of being both clear and non-technical, and being quite cutting-edge. Suitable for undergraduates of all levels.

Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., and . Causality and Determination

1981, In Anscombe, G. E. M. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Philosophical Papers Volume II. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Summary: A classic text in which Anscombe argues for a realist view of causation. Specifically, Anscombe holds that causation is both directly perceivable and not subject to philosophical analysis. Anscombe seeks to establish that causal relations do not presuppose laws, and that causal relations can be perceived in a direct way.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics, philosophy of science or philosophy of action. Anscombe is not always an easy writer, but this paper is not technical and is widely considered to be a classic. This could be used at any undergraduate or graduate level.

Beebe, Helen, and . Does Anything Hold the Universe Together?

2006, Synthese 149(3): 509-533.

Abstract: According to ‘regularity theories’ of causation, the obtaining of causal relations depends on no more than the obtaining of certain kinds of regularity. Regularity theorists are thus anti-realists about necessary connections in nature. Regularity theories of one form or another have constituted the dominant view in analytic Philosophy for a long time, but have recently come in for some robust criticism, notably from Galen Strawson. Strawson’s criticisms are natural criticisms to make, but have not so far provoked much response from regularity theorists. The paper considers and rebuts Strawson’s objections. For example, Strawson claims that if there were no necessary connections in nature, we ought continually to find the regularity of the Universe surprising. I argue that the fact that the Universe is regular is something we take ourselves (fallibly) to know, and hence, in the light of this knowledge, its continued orderliness is not at all surprising

Comment: A must read for students interested in the reularity theories of causation. It would be recommended for student who have a previous kwodledge of Lewis's and Hume's views. Recomended for postgraduates or undergraduates who have been introduded to the topic before.

Beebee, Helen, and . Hume on Causation

2006, Routledge

Publisher’s Note: Hume on Causation is the first major work dedicated to Hume’s views on causation in over fifteen years, and it argues that Hume does not subscribe to any of the three views he is traditionally credited with. The first view is the ‘regularity view of causation’. The second is the view that the world appears to us as a world of unconnected events, and the third is inductive scepticism: the view that the ‘problem of induction’, the problem of providing a justification for inference from observed to unobserved regularities, is insoluble.It places Hume’s interest in causation within the context of his theory of the mind and his theory of causal reasoning, arguing that Hume’s conception of causation derives from his conception of the nature of the inference from causes to effects.

Comment: This book serves as an introduction to the topic of causation. Beebee covers all the major issues and debates in the topic. The books offers an overview that can help undergraduates to learn about the problem of causation and necessity connection. It could be useful as well for postgraduates who want to research Hume's views.

Hurley, Susan, and . Perception and Action: Alternative Views

2001, Synthese 129(1): 3-40.

Abstract: A traditional view of perception and action makes two assumptions: that the causal flow between perception and action is primarily linear or one-way, and that they are merely instrumentally related to each other, so that each is a means to the other. Either or both of these assumptions can be rejected. Behaviorism rejects the instrumental but not the one-way aspect of the traditional view, thus leaving itself open to charges of verificationism. Ecological views reject the one-way aspect but not the instrumental aspect of the traditional view, so that perception and action are seen as instrumentally interdependent. It is argued here that a better alternative is to reject both assumptions, resulting in a two-level interdependence view in which perception and action co-depend on dynamically circular subpersonal relations and as a result may be more than merely instrumentally interdependent. This is illustrated by reference to motor theories of perception and control theories of action.

Comment: A great introduction to motor theories of perception and a great challenge to the traditional view of the senses and actions. Would be a useful source in any examination of philosophy of perception.

Ismael, Jenann, and . Causation, Free Will, and Naturalism

2013, In Don Ross, James Ladyman, and Harold Kincaid (eds.), Scientific Metaphysics, (2013) OUP.

This chapter addresses the worry that the existence of causal antecedents to your choices means that you are causally compelled to act as you do. It begins with the folk notion of cause, leads the reader through recent developments in the scientific understanding of causal concepts, and argues that those developments undermine the threat from causal antecedents. The discussion is then used as a model for a kind of naturalistic metaphysics that takes its lead from science, letting everyday concepts be shaped and transformed by scientific developments.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics (either in sections on causation or free will), philosophy of science, or naturalism. The paper is quite long, but it is clearly written and not too technical. It provides a nice overview of the folk notion of causation, and how this may be amended in the light of scientific developments. It also serves as a good example of peculiarly naturalistic metaphyisics more generally.

Kim, Jaegwon, and . Making Sense of Emergence

1999, Philosophical Studies 95(1-2): 3-36.

Summary: This chapter explores the core thought of the idea of emergentism, that as systems acquire increasingly higher degrees of organizational complexity, they begin to exhibit novel properties which in some sense transcend the properties of their constituent parts, and behave in ways that cannot be predicted on the basis of the laws governing simpler systems. The birth of emergentism can be traced back to John Stuart Mill and his distinction between “heteropathic” and “homeopathic” laws. Academic philosophers contributed to the development of emergence and the attendant doctrines of emergentism, but it is interesting to note that the fundamental idea seems to have had a special appeal to scientists and those outside professional philosophy. In spite of this, emergentism failed to become a visible part of mainstream philosophy of science because philosophy of science was, at the time, shaped by positivist and hyper-empiricist views that dominated Anglo-American philosophy.

Comment: Kim's argument is one of the most important objections to emergence in philosophy of mind. Though complex, a basic understanding of it is essential to a proper treatment of nonreductive physicalism. In any context where emergentism is taught, this paper would serve as an important counterpoint.

Millstein, Roberta, and . Natural Selection as a Population-Level Causal Process

2006, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57(4): 627-653.

Abstract: Recent discussions in the philosophy of biology have brought into question some fundamental assumptions regarding evolutionary processes, natural selection in particular. Some authors argue that natural selection is nothing but a population-level, statistical consequence of lower-level events (Matthen and Ariew [2002]; Walsh et al. [2002]). On this view, natural selection itself does not involve forces. Other authors reject this purely statistical, population-level account for an individual-level, causal account of natural selection (Bouchard and Rosenberg [2004]). I argue that each of these positions is right in one way, but wrong in another; natural selection indeed takes place at the level of populations, but it is a causal process nonetheless.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on the philosophy of science, the philosophy of biology, or in a section on causation in a course on metaphysics. The paper would be appropriate for undergraduate or graduate-level courses. It is quite long.