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Causality in complex systems: An inferentialist proposal

Casini, Lorenzo (2013) Causality in complex systems: An inferentialist proposal. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.103829) (KAR id:103829)


I argue for an inferentialist account of the meaning of causal claims, which draws on the writings of Sellars and Brandom. The account is meant to be widely applicable. In this work, it is motivated and defended with reference to complex systems sciences, i.e., sciences that study the behaviour of systems with many components interacting at various levels of organisation (e.g. cells, brain, social groups).

Here are three, seemingly-uncontroversial platitudes about causality. (1) Causal relations are objective, mind-independent relations and, as such, analysable in objective, mind-independent terms. (2) There is a tight connection between our practice of predicting, explaining and controlling phenomena, and the use of causal notions. (3) The second platitude should be explained in terms of the first.

Contrary to this widely-held stance, I suggest that we reverse the order of analysis, by taking our activities of agents as the raw material in terms of which to account for the obtaining of causal relations. To this end, I propose and defend an inferentialist account of causality. Causality is a ‘category’ that the knowing subject employs to ‘mediate’ between himself and the world. In inferentialist terms, this mediation is the result of the concept of cause figuring in a network of inferences, used in our practice of gathering evidence and using it to explain, predict and intervene. Complexity only makes the mediation more difficult, thereby rendering the meaning of causality more evident.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Williamson, Jon
Thesis advisor: Corfield, David
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.103829
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Department of Philosophy
Depositing User: Rosalyn Bass
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2023 10:40 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2023 12:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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