The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Wed Apr 11, 2007
234 Moses, 6–8 PM
Working Group in the History and Philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Science
Tania Lambrozo (UC-Berkeley)
Empirical Investigations of Explanation and Causation

What constitutes an explanation? This question has received considerable attention in philosophy of science, but relatively little is known about the psychology of explanation. In this talk I’ll present recent empirical work on the psychology of explanation, focusing on teleological explanations–explanations in terms of a function or goal. Drawing on analyses from philosophy, I’ll suggest that people understand teleological explanations as causal explanations: they are only accepted when the function invoked in the explanation played a causal role in bringing about what is being explained. However, I’ll also suggest that casual relationships are evaluated differently in the context of teleological explanations than in the context of mechanistic explanations. These differences map onto different philosophical theories of causation– roughly, a counterfactual account versus a physical connection/transfer of force account. Thus a second, more speculative aim of the talk will be to suggest the psychological reality of multiple concepts of causation.