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Explanation Beyond CausationPhilosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations$
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Alexander Reutlinger and Juha Saatsi

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198777946

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198777946.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 September 2021

The Mathematical Route to Causal Understanding

The Mathematical Route to Causal Understanding

(p.96) 5 The Mathematical Route to Causal Understanding
Explanation Beyond Causation

Michael Strevens

Oxford University Press

In some scientific explanations, mathematical facts seem to be the primary bearers of enlightenment. Is this a case, in science, of “explanation beyond causation”? Might these explanations be causal only in part, or only in an auxiliary way, or not at all? To answer this question, this chapter examines some well-known examples of explanations that seem to operate largely or wholly through mathematical proof. It is concluded that the mathematical and the causal components of these explanations are complementary rather than rivalrous: the function of the mathematics is to help the explanations’ consumers better grasp relevant aspects of the causal structure that does the explaining, and above all, to better grasp how the structure causally makes a difference to the phenomena to be explained. The explanations are revealed, then, to be causal through and through.

Keywords:   scientific explanation, scientific understanding, mathematical explanation, high-level explanation, causation

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