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Hunting Causes and Using Them Causal pluralism and the limits of causal analysiscartwright's

A Research Annual

ISBN: 978-0-85724-059-0, eISBN: 978-0-85724-060-6

Publication date: 25 June 2010


Three themes dominate Hunting Causes. The first is that cause is a plural concept. The methods and metaphysics of causation, Cartwright believes, are context dependent. Different causal accounts seem to be at odds with one another only because the same word means different things in different contexts. Every formal approach to causality uses a conceptual framework that is “thinner” than causal reality. She lists a bewildering variety of approaches to causation: probabilistic and Bayes-net accounts (of, for example, Patrick Suppes, Clive Granger, Wolfgang Spohn, Judea Pearl, and Clark Glymour), modularity accounts (Pearl, James Woodward, and Stephen LeRoy), invariance accounts (Woodward, David Hendry, and Kevin Hoover), natural experiments (Herbert Simon, James Hamilton, and Cartwright), causal process accounts (Wesley Salmon and Philip Dowe), efficacy accounts (Hoover), counterfactual accounts (David Lewis, Hendry, Paul Holland, and Donald Rubin), manipulationist accounts (Peter Menzies and Huw Price), and others. The lists of advocates of various accounts overlap. Nevertheless, she sometimes treats these accounts as if they were so different that it is not clear why they should be the subject of a single book. And she fails to explain what they have in common. If, as she apparently believes, they do not have a common essence, do they have a Wittgensteinian family resemblance? She fails to explore in any systematic way the complementarities among the different approaches – for example, between invariance accounts, Bayes-nets, and natural experiments – that frequently make their advocates allies rather than opponents.


Hoover, K.D. (2010), " Hunting Causes and Using Them Causal pluralism and the limits of causal analysiscartwright's", Biddle, J.E. and Emmett, R.B. (Ed.) A Research Annual (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 28 Part 1), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 381-395.



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