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Counterfactuals and Causal Explanation

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Abstract:

This article defends the use of interventionist counterfactuals to elucidate causal and explanatory claims against criticisms advanced by James Bogen and Peter Machamer. Against Bogen, I argue that counterfactual claims concerning what would happen under interventions are meaningful and have determinate truth values, even in a deterministic world. I also argue, against both Machamer and Bogen, that we need to appeal to counterfactuals to capture the notions like causal relevance and causal mechanism. Contrary to what both authors suppose, counterfactuals are not "unscientific"--a substantial tradition within statistics and the causal modelling literature makes heavy use of them.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02698590412331289251

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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