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Causality and Explanation$
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Wesley C. Salmon

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780195108644

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195108647.001.0001

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Causality in Archaeological Explanation

Causality in Archaeological Explanation

Chapter:
(p.347) 22 Causality in Archaeological Explanation
Source:
Causality and Explanation
Author(s):

Wesley C. Salmon

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0195108647.003.0023

This chapter extends the discussion of the preceding chapter, and emphasizes the causal dimensions of explanation in archaeology. The author considers the sorts of situations that archaeologists want to explain, and notes that many of these are events that result from a complex set of factors, some of which are positively relevant to the occurrence of the event and others that are negatively relevant. In addition, many events that archaeologists want to explain are events that had a very low probability of occurrence. The author argues that formal philosophical models of explanation, such as the D‐N and the I‐S models, are ill suited to the task of archaeological explanation. What is needed, he says, is the development of a probabilistic account of causality that can supplement notions of statistical relevance in explanations of archaeological phenomena.

Keywords:   archaeology, causal explanation, negative relevance, probabilistic causality, probability, statistical relevance

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