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Causality in the Sciences$
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Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo, and Jon Williamson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199574131

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.001.0001

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Singular and general causal relations: A mechanist perspective

Singular and general causal relations: A mechanist perspective

(p.789) 37 Singular and general causal relations: A mechanist perspective
Causality in the Sciences

Stuart Glennan

Oxford University Press

What is the connection between general causal relations, like the relation between heating butter and butter melting, and singular causal relations, like the relation between my heating butter on my stove last night and that butter melting? The generalist view holds that singular causal relations obtain because they are instances of a general causal regularity or law. The singularist view holds the converse position. Singular causal relations can obtain even if they are not instances of causal regularities or laws, and what makes causal generalizations true, when they are true, is that they correctly describe a pattern of singular instances of causally related events. In this chapter makes a case for the singularist view of causal relations from the perspective of a mechanistic account of causation. The chapter explores the role of causal generalizations in the mechanistic approach, as well as in the related process and manipulability approaches to causation. The chapter argues that, notwithstanding the centrality of such generalizations to describing mechanisms and explaining causal relationships, the most plausible metaphysical view is that singular rather than general causal relations are fundamental.

Keywords:   causality, causal Generalizations, laws, mechanisms, counterfactuals, manipulability

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