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Alexandrova, Anna, , . Making Models Count
2008, Philosophy of Science 75(3): 383-404.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

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.

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Allen, Sophie, , . A Critical Introduction to Properties (Bloomsbury Critical Introductions to Contemporary Metaphysics)
2016, Bloomsbury
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Naomi Osorio-Kupferblum

Publisher’s Note: What do blue things have in common? Or electrons? Or planets? Distinct things appear to share properties; but what are properties and what is the best philosophical account of them? A Critical Introduction to Properties introduces different ontological accounts of properties, exploring how their formulation is shaped by the explanatory demands placed upon them.

This accessible introduction begins with a discussion of universals, tropes, sets and resemblance classes, the major objections to them and their responses, providing readers with a firm grasp on the competing ontological accounts of what (if anything) grounds similarity and difference. It then explores issues concerning the formulation and justification of property theories such as: how many properties are there? Should we accept a sparse ontology of properties, or an abundant one? Can we make a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties? Do properties have their causal roles necessarily? What is the relationship between properties and other metaphysical phenomena such as causality, laws and modality? These questions get to the heart of why a coherent theory of properties is so important to metaphysics, and to philosophy more generally.

By concluding with the question of the ontological status of properties, the reader is introduced to some Carnapian and contemporary themes about the content and methodology of metaphysics. For students looking for an accessible resource and a more comprehensive understanding of contemporary metaphysics, A Critical Introduction to Properties is a valuable starting point.

Comment: This is an excellent introduction to a particularly important chapter in (first order) metaphysics. Each chapter is dedicated to a key aspect of properties (e.g. universals, tropes, grounded/ungrounded, intrinsic /extrinsic, categorical/dispositional properties, etc.) which Allen describes with great clarity. She gives plenty of references so that interested students can dig deeper easily. It is very clear in presenting arguments and counter-arguments.

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Anjum, Rani Lill, , Stephen Mumford. A Powerful Theory of Causation
2010, In Anna Marmodoro (ed.) The Metaphysics of Powers, Routledge (2010): 143-59.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

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.

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Anjum, Rani Lill, , Stephen Mumford. Causation: A Very Short Introduction
2013, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

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.

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Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., , . Causality and Determination
1981, In Anscombe, G. E. M. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Philosophical Papers Volume II. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

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.

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Beebe, Helen, , . Does Anything Hold the Universe Together?
2006, Synthese 149(3): 509-533.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

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.

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Beebee, Helen, , . Hume on Causation
2006, Routledge.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

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.

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Boden, Margaret A., , . Intentionality and physical systems
1970, Philosophy of Science 32 (June):200-214.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: Intentionality is characteristic of many psychological phenomena. It is commonly held by philosophers that intentionality cannot be ascribed to purely physical systems. This view does not merely deny that psychological language can be reduced to physiological language. It also claims that the appropriateness of some psychological explanation excludes the possibility of any underlying physiological or causal account adequate to explain intentional behavior. This is a thesis which I do not accept. I shall argue that physical systems of a specific sort will show the characteristic features of intentionality. Psychological subjects are, under an alternative description, purely physical systems of a certain sort. The intentional description and the physical description are logically distinct, and are not intertranslatable. Nevertheless, the features of intentionality may be explained by a purely causal account, in the sense that they may be shown to be totally dependent upon physical processes.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Cartwright, Nancy, , . Causal Laws and Effective Strategies
1979, Nous 13(4): 419-437.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by: Daniel Kokotajlo

Summary: Argues for the irreducibility of causal laws to laws of association, probabilistic or deterministic. Statistical or probabilistic analyses of causality, which typically require that the cause increase or alter the probability of the effect, cannot succeed because causes increase the probability of their effects only in situations that exhibit causal homogeneity with respect to that effect (Simpson’s paradox). This condition must enter the definition of an effective strategy, which is why causal laws are ineliminable for scientifically grounded interventions in nature.

Comment: I would recommend this as a further reading for a unit on causation and the laws of nature. It would be especially useful if situated within a metaphysics course where students have already come across general reductive accounts – e.g. reductive accounts of modality.

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Detlefsen, Karen, , . Reason and Freedom: Margaret Cavendish on the order and disorder of nature
2007, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 89(2): 157-191.
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Added by: Benjamin Goldberg, Contributed by:

Abstract: According to Margaret Cavendish the entire natural world is essentially rational such that everything thinks in some way or another. In this paper, I examine why Cavendish would believe that the natural world is ubiquitously rational, arguing against the usual account, which holds that she does so in order to account for the orderly production of very complex phenomena (e.g. living beings) given the limits of the mechanical philosophy. Rather, I argue, she attributes ubiquitous rationality to the natural world in order to ground a theory of the ubiquitous freedom of nature, which in turn accounts for both the world’s orderly and disorderly behavior.

Comment: This article examines Cavendish’s concept of order and disorder in nature, and will prove a useful complement to advanced courses in early modern thought. Usefully paired with Cavendish’s works, but also those of Descartes, Malebranche, etc.

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Hurley, Susan, , . Perception and Action: Alternative Views
2001, Synthese 129(1): 3-40.
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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.

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Ismael, Jenann, , . Causation, Free Will, and Naturalism
2013, In Don Ross, James Ladyman, and Harold Kincaid (eds.), Scientific Metaphysics, (2013) OUP.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

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.

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Jorati, Julia, , . Leibniz on Causation, Part 1
2015, Philosophy Compass 10 (6):389-397
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Julia Jorati

Abstract: Leibniz holds that created substances do not causally interact with each other but that there is causal activity within each such creature. Every created substance constantly changes internally, and each of these changes is caused by the substance itself or by its prior states. Leibniz describes this kind of intra-substance causation both in terms of final causation and in terms of efficient causation. How exactly this works, however, is highly controversial. I will identify what I take to be the major interpretive issues surrounding Leibniz’s views on causation and examine several influential interpretations of these views. In ‘Leibniz on Causation – Part 2’ I will then take a closer look at final causation.

Comment: Can be used for a survey of early modern philosophy or for a more advanced class on the history of theories of causation.

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Jorati, Julia, , . Leibniz on Causation, Part 2
2015, Philosophy Compass 10 (6):398-405
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Julia Jorati

Abstract: Leibniz is almost unique among early modern philosophers in giving final causation a central place in his metaphysical system. All changes in created substances, according to Leibniz, have final causes, that is, occur for the sake of some end. There is, however, no consensus among commentators about the details of Leibniz’s views on final causation. The least perfect types of changes that created substances undergo are especially puzzling because those changes seem radically different from paradigmatic instances of final causation. Building on my more general discussion of efficient and final causation in ‘Leibniz on Causation – Part 1,’ I will examine and assess some of the rival interpretations of Leibniz’s account of final causation.

Comment: Can be used for a survey course on early modern philosophy or for a more specialized course on the history of causation.

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Kim, Jaegwon, , . Making Sense of Emergence
1999, Philosophical Studies 95(1-2): 3-36.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

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.

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