Causality in the Sciences

Front Cover
Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo, Jon Williamson
OUP Oxford, Mar 17, 2011 - Science - 952 pages
There is a need for integrated thinking about causality, probability and mechanisms in scientific methodology. Causality and probability are long-established central concepts in the sciences, with a corresponding philosophical literature examining their problems. On the other hand, the philosophical literature examining mechanisms is not long-established, and there is no clear idea of how mechanisms relate to causality and probability. But we need some idea if we are to understand causal inference in the sciences: a panoply of disciplines, ranging from epidemiology to biology, from econometrics to physics, routinely make use of probability, statistics, theory and mechanisms to infer causal relationships. These disciplines have developed very different methods, where causality and probability often seem to have different understandings, and where the mechanisms involved often look very different. This variegated situation raises the question of whether the different sciences are really using different concepts, or whether progress in understanding the tools of causal inference in some sciences can lead to progress in other sciences. The book tackles these questions as well as others concerning the use of causality in the sciences.

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About the author (2011)


Phyllis McKay Illari is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kent. She has also held posts at the Universities of Stirling and Bristol. She is interested in all aspects of the metaphysics and methodology of causality. She is currently working on a Leverhulme-Trust funded project on mechanisms and causality across the sciences that uses understanding of the discovery and use of causal mechanisms in different sciences to inform philosophical work on causality.

Federica Russo is currently Research Associate at the University of Kent and has visited the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science (CPNSS) at the LSE from April 2004 to January 2005 and the Center for Philosophy of Science (Pittsburgh) from January to April 2009. She is interested in causality and probability in the social, biomedical and policy sciences, as well as in the philosophical, legal, and social, implications of technology. Federica is part of the editorial board of the journal Philosophy and Technology and features editor of the monthly gazette The Reasoner.

Jon Williamson is Professor of Reasoning, Inference and Scientific Method in the philosophy department at the University of Kent. He works on causality, probability, logic and applications of formal reasoning within science, mathematics and artificial intelligence. Jon currently heads the philosophy department and is a director of the multi-disciplinary University of Kent Centre for Reasoning. He runs the Reasoning Club, a network of research centres, and edits The Reasoner, a monthly gazette on research in this area. Jon was Times Higher Education UK Young Researcher of the Year 2007.

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