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Manipulation is key – On why non-mechanistic explanations in the cognitive sciences also describe relations of manipulation and control

Elber-Dorozko, Lotem (2018) Manipulation is key – On why non-mechanistic explanations in the cognitive sciences also describe relations of manipulation and control. Synthese. ISSN 1573-0964

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Abstract

A popular view presents explanations in the cognitive sciences as causal or mechanistic and argues that an important feature of such explanations is that they allow us to manipulate and control the explanandum phenomena. Nonetheless, whether there can be explanations in the cognitive sciences that are neither causal nor mechanistic is still under debate. Another prominent view suggests that both causal and non-causal relations of counterfactual dependence can be explanatory, but this view is open to the criticism that it is not clear how to distinguish explanatory from non-explanatory relations. In this paper, I draw from both views and suggest that, in the cognitive sciences, relations of counterfactual dependence that allow manipulation and control can be explanatory even when they are neither causal nor mechanistic. Furthermore, the ability to allow manipulation can determine whether non-causal counterfactual dependence relations are explanatory. I present a preliminary framework for manipulation relations that includes some non-causal relations and use two examples from the cognitive sciences to show how this framework distinguishes between explanatory and non-explanatory, non-causal relations. The proposed framework suggests that, in the cognitive sciences, causal and non-causal relations have the same criterion for explanatory value, namely, whether or not they allow manipulation and control.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Elber-Dorozko, Lotemlotem.elber@mail.huji.ac.il
Keywords: explanation; non-causal explanations; manipulation and control; the cognitive sciences; counterfactual dependence;
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
Depositing User: Lotem Elber-Dorozko
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2018 21:27
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2018 21:27
Item ID: 15030
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-01901-3
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-01901-3
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
Date: 12 September 2018
ISSN: 1573-0964
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15030

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