, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 49–71

Mechanisms and the nature of causation

  • Stuart S. Glennan

DOI: 10.1007/BF00172853

Cite this article as:
Glennan, S.S. Erkenntnis (1996) 44: 49. doi:10.1007/BF00172853


In this paper I offer an analysis of causation based upon a theory of mechanisms-complex systems whose “internal” parts interact to produce a system's “external” behavior. I argue that all but the fundamental laws of physics can be explained by reference to mechanisms. Mechanisms provide an epistemologically unproblematic way to explain the necessity which is often taken to distinguish laws from other generalizations. This account of necessity leads to a theory of causation according to which events are causally related when there is a mechanism that connects them. I present reasons why the lack of an account of fundamental physical causation does not undermine the mechanical account.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart S. Glennan
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Philosophy and Religious StudiesButler UniversityIndianapolisUSA

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