Conference "Causalism and Anti-Causalism in Historical Explanations"

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March 16-18, 2016

FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany


Venue: Großer Senatssaal, AVZ, Universitätsstr. 21, 58084 Hagen


Conference Theme:

The conference deals with the philosophical quarrel as to whether explanations in historiography are a form of causal explanations. In analytic philosophy, the discussion started with Hempel’s notorious claim that history and the sciences do not differ substantially, because both disciplines employ causal explanations which have allegedly a standard logical form: that of the deduction of the explanandum from laws or law like generalizations. Although his “Covering-Law-Model” is not seriously debated as a paradigm of historical explanation anymore, the view that human actions are to be explained by causes is still predominant in recent philosophy of historiography, theory of social sciences, and action theory. But some philosophers of action did not give up their opposition to causal explanations of human conduct. Especially in recent years the causalist mainstream seems to have come under fire (again) by an anti-causalist “fin de siecle movement”. According to those philosophers, human actions are to be explained teleologically by reference to the goals and the purposes of the agents.

The conference shall address issues which remain controversial to the present day: How are human actions to be explained – by reference to causes such as inner mental states, brain states, or external (social or economical) causes? Do causal explanations involve strict generalizations or are they counterfactual relations or something else? Are there causal relations between mental and physical phenomena and, if so, how are they to be understood? Or are human actions rather to be explained by reasons – understood as distinct from causes? What then are reasons and what is the relationship between a reason and an action? Are intentions and purposes mental states? Also, reasons seem to have in some sense normative force, whereas causes do not. But does not Davidson’s point, that real reasons must be “effecting” actions, speak against the teleological approach such that reasons must be understood as causes nonetheless? How are collective actions to be grasped? Do we have to accept the idea of universal agents or can they be reduced to individual human actions? Is there anything like “collective intentions” and how should one think one of them?

The conference aims at five goals in particular:

  • to revive a substantial discussion between causalists and anti-causalists in analytical philosophy of action and historiography
  • to bring together the up to now scattered areas of discussion about causalism and anti-causalism in philosophy of historiography on the one hand and in theory of action on the other
  • to make clearer how the problem of historical explanation is embedded in the array of deep philosophical problem (explanation (everyday and scientific), causality, mind, freedom and determinism, practical inference, knowledge of the past and knowledge of “other minds”) and how they are interrelated
  • the conference addresses a problem of overarching and enduring philosophical interest and importance reaching beyond the boundaries of analytical philosophy in the narrower sense. Thus, the conference tackles a question which might help bring analytical and non-analytical philosophical discourses back together
  • to contribute to the comprehension of what historians and social scientists do when they explain historical or social phenomena and to give them a guideline of high generality for their research

Attendance is free, but please register at: gunnar.schumann@fernuni-hagen.de

Sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the FernUniversität in Hagen, the Gesellschaft der Freunde der FernUniversität in Hagen and the Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie (GAP)

Organizer: Gunnar Schumann

(Preliminary) Conference Schedule:

Wednesday, 03/16/2016

1.00 p.m.

Reception and Coffee

2.00 p.m. – 2.30 p.m.

Dr. Gunnar Schumann

Welcoming address / Introduction

2.30 p.m. – 3.30 p.m.

Dr. Giuseppina D’Oro, Keele University, UK

“What kind of debate is the causalist/anti-causalist debate?”

3.30 p.m. – 4.30 p.m.

Apl. Prof. Dr. Robert Schnepf, Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

“The conditionality of human actions“

4.30 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.

coffee break

5.00 p.m. – 6.00 p.m.

PD Dr. Doris Gerber, Universität Bayreuth, Germany

“Counterfactual causality and historical explanations“

Thursday, 03/17/2016

9.00 a.m. – 10.00 a.m.

Dr. Aviezer Tucker, Harvard University, USA

“Historical causation and origins“

10.00 a.m. – 11.00 a.m.

Prof. Dr. Oliver R. Scholz, Universität Münster, Germany

“Historical explanations: The role of causation and non-strict generalizations”

11.00 a.m. – 11.20 a.m.

coffee break

11.20 a.m. – 12.20 p.m.

Prof. Dr. Alfred Mele, Florida State University, USA

"Some Attractions of Causalism"

12.20 p.m. – 1.20 p.m.

lunch break

1.20 p.m. – 2.20 p.m.

Prof. Dr. George F. Schueler, University of Delaware, USA

"Why and How? - Teleological and causal concepts in action explanations"

2.20 p.m. – 3.20 p.m.

Prof. Dr. Guido Löhrer, Universität Erfurt, Germany / Prof. Dr. Scott R. Sehon, Bowdoin College, USA

"Rationalizing principles and causal explanation"

3.20 p.m. – 3.40 p.m.

coffee break

3.40 p.m. – 4.40 p.m.

Dr. Julia Tanney, University of Kent, UK

"The explanatory role of mental predicates"

Friday, 03/18/2016

9.00 a.m. – 10.00 a.m.

Dr Severin Schroeder, University of Reading

"Reasons and Causes in historical explanations"

10.00 a.m. – 11.00 a.m.

Dr. Gunnar Schumann, FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany

"An anti-causal theory of action as basis for historical explanations"

11.00 a.m. – 11.20 a.m.

coffee break

11.20 a.m. – 12.20 p.m.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Bedorf, FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany

"Practice Theory and collective intentionality"

12.20 p.m.


FernUni-Logo FernUniversität in Hagen, Fakultät KSW, Institut für Philosophie, 58084 Hagen