Against causal monism

9 Mar, 2023 at 11:09 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | Leave a comment

Social scientists pursue a variety of different purposes such as predicting events of interest, explaining individual events or general phenomena, and controlling outcomes for policy. It is interesting to note that the language of“cause” is employed in all these contexts …

Abstract Word Cloud For Anomalous Monism With Related Tags And Terms Stock  Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 17320322.What kind of causal hypothesis should be investigated (and, in tandem, what kind of evidence should be sought) therefore is to be determined on the basis of purpose pursued in the given context. For certain kinds of prediction, Granger causation is appropriate and thus probabilistic evidence. Explanation is itself a multifaceted concept, and different notions of explanation require counterfactual, regularity, or mechanistic concepts of cause and the associated kind of evidence. Some kinds of policy require a concept of cause as invariant under intervention and, again, evidence able to support this kind of relation …

Although there are different kinds of evidence for causal relationships, different kinds of evidence tend to support different types of causal claim, a fact that ties evidence and type of causal claim together very tightly. This is unfortunate as we pursue many different purposes and it would be nice if we could establish that X causes Y and thereby be helped in realizing all our purposes. For instance, it would be nice if we could base policies on probabilistic evidence or if we found a mechanism between X and Y infer that X makes a difference to Y. As a general rule, this will not work. To be sure, the different kinds of causal claim are sometimes true of the same system, but whether that is so is an empirical question that has to be addressed, and answered supported by evidence, in its own right.

Julian Reiss

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