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Mechanisms and the Nature of Causation

Stuart S. Glennan
Erkenntnis (1975-)
Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), pp. 49-71
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20012673
Page Count: 23
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Mechanisms and the Nature of Causation
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Abstract

In this paper I offer an analysis of causation based upon a theory of mechanisms -- complex systems whose "internal" parts interact to produce a system's "external" behavior. I argue that all but the fundamental laws of physics can be explained by reference to mechanisms. Mechanisms provide an epistemologically unproblematic way to explain the necessity which is often taken to distinguish laws from other generalizations. This account of necessity leads to a theory of causation according to which events are causally related when there is a mechanism that connects them. I present reasons why the lack of an account of fundamental physical causation does not undermine the mechanical account.

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