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Causal Explanations of Behavior*

Merrilee H. Salmon
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 70, No. 4 (October 2003), pp. 720-738
DOI: 10.1086/378861
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/378861
Page Count: 19
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Causal Explanations of Behavior*
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Abstract

Most discussions of causal explanations of behavior focus on the problem of whether it makes sense to regard reasons as causes of human behavior, whether there can be laws connecting reasons with behavior, and the like. This essay discusses explanations of human behavior that do not appeal to reasons. Such explanations can be found in several areas of the social sciences. Moreover, these explanations are both causal and non‐reductionist. Historical linguists, for example, offer causal explanations of changes in how words are pronounced—and linguistic change in general—without appealing to human intentions. I use examples from linguistics, anthropology, and evolutionary psychology to discuss the importance of this sort of explanation and to examine its compatibility with recent philosophical accounts of causation.

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