•  337
    Can mechanisms really replace laws of nature?
    Philosophy of Science 77 (3): 317-340. 2010.
    Today, mechanisms and mechanistic explanation are very popular in philosophy of science and are deemed a welcome alternative to laws of nature and deductive‐nomological explanation. Starting from Mitchell's pragmatic notion of laws, I cast doubt on their status as a genuine alternative. I argue that (1) all complex‐systems mechanisms ontologically must rely on stable regularities, while (2) the reverse need not hold. Analogously, (3) models of mechanisms must incorporate pragmatic laws, while (4…Read more
  •  168
    The Structure of Scientific Theories, Explanation, and Unification. A Causal–Structural Account
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (4): 717-771. 2014.
    What are scientific theories and how should they be represented? In this article, I propose a causal–structural account, according to which scientific theories are to be represented as sets of interrelated causal and credal nets. In contrast with other accounts of scientific theories (such as Sneedian structuralism, Kitcher’s unificationist view, and Darden’s theory of theoretical components), this leaves room for causality to play a substantial role. As a result, an interesting account of expla…Read more
  •  150
    Modelling mechanisms with causal cycles
    Synthese 191 (8): 1-31. 2014.
    Mechanistic philosophy of science views a large part of scientific activity as engaged in modelling mechanisms. While science textbooks tend to offer qualitative models of mechanisms, there is increasing demand for models from which one can draw quantitative predictions and explanations. Casini et al. (Theoria 26(1):5–33, 2011) put forward the Recursive Bayesian Networks (RBN) formalism as well suited to this end. The RBN formalism is an extension of the standard Bayesian net formalism, an exten…Read more
  •  136
    Three Problems for the Mutual Manipulability Account of Constitutive Relevance in Mechanisms
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (2): 399-427. 2012.
    In this article, I present two conceptual problems for Craver's mutual manipulability account of constitutive relevance in mechanisms. First, constitutive relevance threatens to imply causal relevance despite Craver (and Bechtel)'s claim that they are strictly distinct. Second, if (as is intuitively appealing) parthood is defined in terms of spatio-temporal inclusion, then the mutual manipulability account is prone to counterexamples, as I show by a case of endosymbiosis. I also present a method…Read more
  •  118
    General theories of explanation: buyer beware
    Synthese 190 (3): 379-396. 2013.
    We argue that there is no general theory of explanation that spans the sciences, mathematics, and ethics, etc. More specifically, there is no good reason to believe that substantive and domain-invariant constraints on explanatory information exist. Using Nickel (Noûs 44(2):305–328, 2010 ) as an exemplar of the contrary, generalist position, we first show that Nickel’s arguments rest on several ambiguities, and then show that even when these ambiguities are charitably corrected, Nickel’s defense …Read more
  •  114
    Causality and Explanation in the Sciences
    with Erik Weber
    Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 27 (2): 133-136. 2012.
    Editors’ introduction to the special issue on the Causality and Explanation in the Sciences conference, held at the University of Ghent in September 2011.
  •  86
    Sober has reconstructed the biological design argument in the framework of likelihoodism, purporting to demonstrate that it is defective for intrinsic reasons. We argue that Sober’s restriction on the introduction of auxiliary hypotheses is too restrictive, as it commits him to rejecting types of everyday reasoning that are clearly valid. Our account shows that the design argument fails, not because it is intrinsically untestable but because it clashes with the empirical evidence and fails to sa…Read more
  •  77
    ABSTRACT. Probability and statistics play an important role in contemporary -philosophy of causality. They are viewed as glasses through which we can see or detect causal relations. However, they may sometimes act as blinding glasses, as I will argue in this paper. In the 19th century, Francis Galton tried to statistically analyze hereditary phenomena. Although he was a far better statistician than Gregor Mendel, his biological theory turned out to be less fruitful. This was no sheer accident. H…Read more
  •  61
    In the past 25 years, many philosophers have endorsed the view that the practical value of causal knowledge lies in the fact that manipulation of causes is a good way to bring about a desired change in the effect. This view is intuitively very plausible. For instance, we can predict a storm on the basis of a barometer reading, but we cannot avoid the storm by manipulating the state of the barometer (barometer status and storm are effects of a common cause, viz. atmospheric conditions). In Sectio…Read more
  •  57
    Supervenience is mostly conceived of as a purely philosophical concept. Nevertheless, I will argue, it played an important and very fruitful inferential role in classical genetics. Gregor Mendel assumed that phenotypic traits supervene on underlying factors, and this assumption allowed him to successfully predict and explain the phenotypical regularities he had experimentally discovered. Therefore it is interesting to explicate how we reason about supervenience relations. I will tackle the follo…Read more
  •  48
    What are mechanisms in social science? Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9610-9 Authors Bert Leuridan, Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, Room 2.03, 9000 Ghent, Belgium Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796
  •  41
    We present a logic, \, for the discovery of deterministic causal regularities starting from empirical data. Our approach is inspired by Mackie’s theory of causes as INUS-conditions, and implements a more recent adjustment to Mackie’s theory according to which the left-hand side of causal regularities is required to be a minimal disjunction of minimal conjunctions. To derive such regularities from a given set of data, we make use of the adaptive logics framework. Our knowledge of deterministic ca…Read more
  •  28
    Causal Discovery and the Problem of Ignorance. An Adaptive Logic Approach
    Journal of Applied Logic 7 (2): 188-205. 2009.
    In this paper, I want to substantiate three related claims regarding causal discovery from non-experimental data. Firstly, in scientific practice, the problem of ignorance is ubiquitous, persistent, and far-reaching. Intuitively, the problem of ignorance bears upon the following situation. A set of random variables V is studied but only partly tested for (conditional) independencies; i.e. for some variables A and B it is not known whether they are (conditionally) independent. Secondly, Judea Pea…Read more
  •  27
    On Lawfulness in History and Historiography
    History and Theory 51 (2): 172-192. 2012.
    The use of general and universal laws in historiography has been the subject of debate ever since the end of the nineteenth century. Since the 1970s there has been a growing consensus that general laws such as those in the natural sciences are not applicable in the scientific writing of history. We will argue against this consensus view, not by claiming that the underlying conception of what historiography is—or should be—is wrong, but by contending that it is based on a misconception of what ge…Read more
  •  20
  •  13
    Mechanistic approaches are very common in the causal interpretation of biological and neuroscientific experimental work in today’s philosophy of science. In the mechanistic literature a strict distinction is often made between causal relations and constitutive relations, where the latter cannot be causal. One of the typical reasons for this strict distinction is that constitutive relations are supposedly synchronic whereas most if not all causal relations are diachronic. This strict distinction …Read more
  •  11
    We present a logic, $$\mathbf {ELI^r}$$ ELI r, for the discovery of deterministic causal regularities starting from empirical data. Our approach is inspired by Mackie’s theory of causes as INUS-conditions, and implements a more recent adjustment to Mackie’s theory according to which the left-hand side of causal regularities is required to be a minimal disjunction of minimal conjunctions. To derive such regularities from a given set of data, we make use of the adaptive logics framework. Our knowl…Read more
  •  9
    The IARC and Mechanistic Evidence
    with Erik Weber
    In Phyllis Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences, Oxford University Press. pp. 91--109. 2011.
    The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an organization which seeks to identify the causes of human cancer. Per agent, such as betel quid or Human Papillomaviruses, they review the available evidence deriving from epidemiological studies, animal experiments and information about mechanisms (and other data). The evidence of the different groups is combined such that an overall assessment of the carcinogenicity of the agent in question is obtained. In this paper, we critically r…Read more