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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Absence Causation in Mechanistic Explanation
by Beard, Alexander R., M.A., California State University, Long Beach, 2017, 62; 10605037
Abstract (Summary)

Instances of absence causation are said to occur when an absence (or omission) serves as the cause of an effect. Such cases have generally proven problematic for conceptions of causality, especially those that take causation to be a production-like relation that holds between positive entities. This thesis details the problem of absence causation and situates it within the purview of mechanistic explanation. I aim to solve the problem and suggest a decompositional approach to absences that reveals the actual source of production in cases of supposed absence causation. I maintain that absences are objective features of the world, and that representations of them pick out qualities of a particular spatiotemporal region. They are, however, causally inert, as they are states rather than events, and so not the proper relatum of the causal relation. The prevalence with which cases of absence causation appear in explanatory models and texts suggests a functional role for their inclusion. I argue that representing causal absences has heuristic value, insofar as doing so facilitates the correct identification of actual causal sequences, and their inclusion is sometimes a means by which to fulfill various epistemic norms on explanations. I provide a way in which to understand absence causation that captures the role that it plays in explanatory representations, renders our explanatory practices more easily justifiable, and preserves basic ontological commitments regarding causality.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wright, Cory
Commitee: Lascano, Marcy, Wright, Wayne
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 56/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Metaphysics, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy
Keywords: Absence, Causation, Explanation, Idealization, Mechanism
Publication Number: 10605037
ISBN: 978-0-355-23030-7
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