On ‘Stabilising’ medical mechanisms, truth-makers and epistemic causality: a critique to Williamson and Russo’s approach
- 128 Downloads
In this paper I offer an anti-Humean critique to Williamson and Russo’s approach to medical mechanisms. I focus on one of the specific claims made by Williamson and Russo, namely the claim that micro-structural ‘mechanisms’ provide evidence for the stability across populations of causal relationships ascertained at the (macro-) level of (test) populations. This claim is grounded in the epistemic account of causality developed by Williamson, an account which—while not relying exclusively on mechanistic evidence for justifying causal judgements—appeals nevertheless to mechanisms, and rejects their anti-Humean interpretation in terms of capacities, powers, potencies, etc. By using (and expanding on) Cartwright’s basic critique against Humean mechanisms, I suggest that, in order to move beyond the level of plausibility, Williamson and Russo’s position is in need of a clarification as to the occurent reading of the components, functioning and interferences of mechanisms. Relatedly, as concerns Williamson’s epistemic account of causation, I argue that this account is in need of a more straightforward answer as to what truth-makers its causal claims should have.
KeywordsCausation Medical causes Anti-Humeanism Capacity Cartwright Williamson Russo
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Bird A. (2007) Nature’s metaphysics: Dispositions, laws, and properties. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Cartwright N. (1989) Nature’s capacities and their measurement. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Cartwright N. (1999) The dappled word. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Cartwright, N. (2002b). ’Introduction’ and ’Reply’. Philosophical Books, 43, 241–244, 271–279.Google Scholar
- Cartwright, N. (2007a). Causal powers. Monograph LSE. Retrieved August 24, 2011, from http://personal.lse.ac.uk/cartwrig/Default.htm.
- Funkenstein A. (1989) Theology and scientific imagination. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Hacking I. (1984) The emergence of probability. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Hacking I. (2002) Historical ontology. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Lewis, D. (1986). Causal explanation. In Philosophical papers (Vol. II, pp. 214–240). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Lipton, R. Ødegaard, T. (2005). Causal thinking and causal language in epidemiology: It’s in the details Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations, 2, 8.Google Scholar
- Lowe J. (1989) Kinds of being. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Mackie J. (1974) The cement of the universe: A study of causation. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Mumford S. (1998) Dispositions. Claredon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Pearl J (2000) Comment. Journal of the American Statistical Association 95: 428–431Google Scholar
- Psillos, S. (2008). Cartwright‘s realist toil. In S. Hartman, C. Hoefer & L. Bovens (Eds.), Cartwright’s philosophy of science (pp. 167–194). London: Routledge. Retrieved August 24, 2011, from http://old.phs.uoa.gr/~psillos/Publications_files/Cartwright.pdf.
- Russo, F., Williamson, J. (2007). Interpreting causality in the health sciences. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21(2), 157–170. Retrieved August 24, 2011, from http://www.kent.ac.uk/secl/philosophy/jw/2006/interpreting_causality.pdf.
- Schaffer, J. (2008). Causation and laws of nature: Reductionism. In T. Sider, J. Hawthorne & D. W. Zimmerman (Eds.), Contemporary debates in metaphysics. Oxford: Blackwell. Retrieved August 24, 2011, from http://www.jonathanschaffer.org/reductionism.pdf.
- Spohn W. (2000) Bayesian nets are all there is to causal dependence. In: Galavotti M. C. (eds) Stochastic dependence and causality. CSLI Publications, Stanford, pp 157–172Google Scholar
- Steel D. (2008) Across the boundaries: Extrapolation in biology and social science. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Williamson, J. (2007). Causality. In D. Gabbay & F. Guenthner (Eds.), Handbook of philosophical logic (Vol. 14, pp. 95–126). Dordrecht: Springer. Retrieved August 24, 2011 at http://www.kent.ac.uk/secl/philosophy/jw/2004/causality.pdf.
- Williamson, J. (2009). Probabilistic theories of causality. In H. Beebee, C. Hitchcock & P. Menzies (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of causation (pp. 185–212). Oxford: Oxford University Press Retrieved August 24, 2011 at http://www.kent.ac.uk/secl/philosophy/jw/2007/ProbabilisticCausality.pdf.
- Williamson, J., McKay Illary, P. (2010). Mechanisms are real and local. In P. McKay Illari, F. Russo & J. Williamson (Eds.), Causality in the sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved August 24, 2011 at http://www.kent.ac.uk/secl/philosophy/jw/2009/real-local.pdf.
- Wilson J. (2005) Causality. In: Sarkar S., Pfeifer J. (eds) The philosophy of science: An encyclopedia. Routledge, New York, pp 90–100Google Scholar
- Woodward J. (2003) Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar