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Causal Depth contra Humean Empiricism: Aspects of a Scientific Realist Approach to Explanation

Khan, Haider (2008): Causal Depth contra Humean Empiricism: Aspects of a Scientific Realist Approach to Explanation.

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Abstract

The purpose of this note is to clarify how the idea of "causal depth" can play a role in finding the more "approximately true" explanation through causal comparisons. It is not an exhaustive treatment but rather focuses on a few aspects that may be the most critical in evaluating the explanatory strengths of a theory in the social sciences. It presents a general argument which is anti-Humean on the critical side and scientific realist on the positive side. It also elucidates how explanations in political economy and other social sciences can be judged by the scientific realist criterion of causal depth by an extensive example from research in the political economy of development. In this case, an "intentional" and methodologically individualist neoclassical explanation is contrasted with a "structural" dual-dual approach as rival theories purporting to explain the same set of phenomena. The formal model representing the dual-dual approach can easily be contrasted with its neoclassical counterpart. The comparison shows that the dual-dual model is indeed deeper in terms of causal structure than the neoclassical model

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