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2017/18 Philosophy Speaker Series

"Problems with Counterfactual Non-Causal Explanation"

  • Blake Freier, Department of Philosophy, University of Waterloo
  • Friday, April 6, 2018, 3:30 p.m., DAWB 2-101 (Dr. Alvin Woods Building)
  • All are welcome


In his paper, “Is there a Monist Theory of Causal and Non-Causal Explanations”, Alexander Reutlinger argues that there is, and articulates a defence of a monist theory. His view builds off of James Woodward’s counterfactual theory of causal explanations, and attempts to extend the counterfactual theory of explanation to non-causal explanations. My aim in this paper is not to argue that there are no non-causal explanations, nor is it to comment on the merits of a monist account of explanation versus a pluralist account of explanation. Finally, it is not to comment on the merits of the counterfactual theory of explanation. Instead, my aim is to show that insofar as the counterfactual theory of causal explanation is a viable option, we should be skeptical of extending Woodward’s theory in this way. I will show that such an extension runs into serious difficulties which renders Reutlinger’s position, as it currently stands, inconsistent. Reutlinger then is left with two options. The first is to clarify/refine his position to show that there is no inconsistency (or to account for why the inconsistency is justified). The second, is to abandon the position.