Running it up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes: A response to Woodward on causal and explanatory asymmetries

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Published 10-03-2021
Katrina Elliott
Marc Lange

Abstract

Does smoke cause fire or does fire cause smoke?  James Woodward’s “Flagpoles anyone? Causal and explanatory asymmetries” argues that various statistical independence relations not only help us to uncover the directions of causal and explanatory relations in our world, but also are the worldly basis of causal and explanatory directions.  We raise questions about Woodward’s envisioned epistemology, but our primary focus is on his metaphysics.  We argue that any alleged connection between statistical (in)dependence and causal/explanatory direction is contingent, at best.  The directions of causal/explanatory relations in our world seem not to depend on the statistical (in)dependence relations in our world (conceived of either as frequency patterns or as relations among chances).  Thus, we doubt that statistical (in)dependence relations are the worldly basis of causal and explanatory directions. 

How to Cite

Elliott, K., & Lange, M. (2021). Running it up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes: A response to Woodward on causal and explanatory asymmetries. THEORIA, 37(1). https://doi.org/10.1387/theoria.22351
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Keywords

explanation, causation, asymmetry, counterfactual, invariance, interventionism, James Woodward

Section
MONOGRAPHIC SECTION