MA Thesis Defense: Alex Beard

Absence Causation in Mechanistic Explanation
Alexander Beard

Monday June 19th 2017 @ 1:00pm in MHB–915

Abstract: Instances of absence causation are said to occur when an absence serves as the cause of an effect. Such cases have proven problematic for conceptions of causality, especially those that take causation to be a production-like relation. This thesis details the problem of absence causation and situates it within the purview of mechanistic explanation. I aim to solve the problem and suggest a decompositional approach to absences that reveals the actual source of production in cases of supposed absence causation. I maintain that absences are causally inert, as they are states rather than events, and so not the proper relatum of the causal relation. The prevalence with which cases of absence causation appear in explanatory models and texts suggests a functional role for their inclusion. I argue that representing causal absences has heuristic value, and that their inclusion in explanations is sometimes a means by which to fulfill various epistemic norms.

Oral defenses are open to the public. For a draft copy of the thesis, please contact Alex <> directly.