Cause, Chance, Determinism and Counterfactuals in History

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dc.contributor.advisor Nola, R en
dc.contributor.advisor Bishop, J en Weller Maar, Alexander en 2015-03-25T03:10:04Z en 2015 en
dc.identifier.citation 2015 en
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description.abstract My basic aim in this thesis is to undermine scepticism towards a causal approach to historiography. Scepticism about causal explanations in history is the result of inadequate understanding of what causal knowledge involves and how it may be provided. I identify where failures of philosophical understanding generate such scepticism, and then attempt to correct some of those failures. Post-modern approaches to history hold that common philosophical accounts of causation seem inapplicable to the kinds of explanation appropriate in history. My response is to show that Lewis’s counterfactual theory of causation fits well with the way historians make causal claims. Historical explanations must deal with accidental happenings, chance events, and free human action; post-modern historians claim that causal explanation in history cannot account for the occurrence of these. My reply involves identifying notions of accidentality, chance and freedom, which are consistent with causal explanations. The previous claim is sometimes supported by holding that causation presupposes determinism. I respond to this in two steps: I first explore the senses in which determinism may be presupposed by causal explanations in the natural sciences, and then consider arguments against historical determinism, showing that they fall short. Finally, I consider whether the construction of counterfactual thought experiments may be a useful tool in the provision of causal explanations in history. I argue that counterfactual thinking plays a limited role in history, and that it is compatible with both, determinism and indeterminism. Key-words: causation, explanation, chance, determinism, historical counterfactuals. en
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof PhD Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.relation.isreferencedby UoA99264764710702091 en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Previously published items are made available in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. en
dc.rights.uri en
dc.title Cause, Chance, Determinism and Counterfactuals in History en
dc.type Thesis en Philosophy en The University of Auckland en Doctoral en PhD en
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The Author en
pubs.elements-id 478968 en
pubs.record-created-at-source-date 2015-03-25 en

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