Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 377–384 | Cite as

There May Yet be Non-causal Explanations (of Particular Events)

  • Finnur DellsénEmail author


There are many putative counterexamples to the view that all scientific explanations are causal explanations. Using a new theory of what it is to be a causal explanation, Bradford Skow has recently argued that several of the putative counterexamples fail to be non-causal. This paper defends some of the counterexamples by showing how Skow’s argument relies on an overly permissive theory of causal explanations.


Causal explanation Partial explanation The barometer Causal histories 



I would like to thank Michael Bertrand, Marc Lange, Bradford Skow, and two anonymous reviewers for this journal for helpful comments on drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank those who participated in the reading group on non-causal explanations in the Spring of 2014 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for valuable discussions on these issues.


  1. Audi, P. (2012). Grounding: Toward a theory of the in-virtue-of relation. Journal of Philosophy, 109, 685–711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Hempel, C. G. (1965). Aspects of scientific explanation and other essays in the philosophy of science. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  3. Lewis, D. K. (1986). Causal explanation. Philosophical papers (Vol. II, pp. 214–240). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Nerlich, G. (1979). What can geometry explain? The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 30, 69–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Rosen, G. (2010). Metaphysical dependence: Grounding and reduction. In B. Hale & A. Hoffmann (Eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, logic, and epistemology (pp. 109–136). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Salmon, W. C. (1984). Scientific explanation and the causal structure of the world. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Salmon, W. C. (1989). Four decades of scientific explanation. In P. Kitcher & W. C. Salmon (Eds.), Scientific explanation (pp. 3–219). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  8. Schaffer, J. (2009). On what grounds what. In D. Chalmers, D. Manley, & R. Wasserman (Eds.), Metametaphysics (pp. 347–383). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Skow, B. (2014). Are there non-causal explanations (of particular events). The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 65, 445–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyUniversity College DublinDublinIreland

Personalised recommendations