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How Probabilistic Causation Can Account for the Use of Mechanistic Evidence

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In a recent article in this journal, Federica Russo and Jon Williamson argue that an analysis of causality in terms of probabilistic relationships does not do justice to the use of mechanistic evidence to support causal claims. I will present Ronald Giere's theory of probabilistic causation, and show that it can account for the use of mechanistic evidence (both in the health sciences—on which Russo and Williamson focus—and elsewhere). I also review some other probabilistic theories of causation (of Suppes, Eells, and Humphreys) and show that they cannot account for the use of mechanistic evidence. I argue that these theories are also inferior to Giere's theory in other respects.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2009

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