European Journal for Philosophy of Science

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 47–69 | Cite as

Generic versus single-case causality: the case of autopsy

  • Federica Russo
  • Jon Williamson
Original Paper in Philosophy of Science


This paper addresses questions about how the levels of causality (generic and single-case causality) are related. One question is epistemological: can relationships at one level be evidence for relationships at the other level? We present three kinds of answer to this question, categorised according to whether inference is top-down, bottom-up, or the levels are independent. A second question is metaphysical: can relationships at one level be reduced to relationships at the other level? We present three kinds of answer to this second question, categorised according to whether single-case relations are reduced to generic, generic relations are reduced to single-case, or the levels are independent. We then explore causal inference in autopsy. This is an interesting case study, we argue, because it refutes all three epistemologies and all three metaphysics. We close by sketching an account of causality that survives autopsy—the epistemic theory.


Causality Causal inference Autopsy Epistemic theory 



This research was supported by funds from the British Academy and the Fonds Nationale de Recherche Scientifique (Belgium). We are grateful to Alan Bates, Nancy Cartwright, Brendan Clarke, Carl Hoefer and an anonymous referee for very helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy–SECLUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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