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Nature: Its Conceptual Architecture


Louis Caruana

Many philosophers adopt methods that emulate those of the natural sciences. They call such an overall approach naturalism, and consider it indispensable for fruitful philosophical debate in various areas. In spite of this consensus however, little is ever said about how naturalism depends on the underlying idea of nature, which we often endorse unconsciously. If we can determine how naturalism reflects an underlying account of nature, we would be in a better position to distinguish between different kinds of naturalism and to assess the merits of each. This book undertakes a sustained study of the concept of nature to answer this need. It examines in detail how conceptual, historical, and scientific constraints affect the concept of nature in various domains of philosophy, and how, in the opposite sense, these constraints are themselves affected by the concept of nature. In so doing, this book relates the conceptual framework of scientific inquiry back to the lived experience that is proper to everyday self-understanding.
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Chapter 3 – Causes


Chapter 3 Causes

Many things have been said about causation, and debates in this area are far from over. The particular perspective adopted in this chapter is one that focuses on the relation or relations that might exist between the concept of causation and the concept of nature. Such relations cannot be straightforward, because, as has been said in previous chapters, the concept of nature is multilayered and complex. Moreover, as will be seen below, the concept of causation is not simple either. Consequently, the investigation cannot proceed on the assumption that, if there is a relation between the two concepts, it would be a single, straightforward one. The links between the two concepts, if they exist at all, are probably like lines that link one complex area of our conceptual scheme to another, forming an interweaving pattern.

Some of the earliest attempts to analyze the concept of causation are found in the works of Aristotle, who, for this purpose, used the Greek word aitia.1 Since this word can be translated either as “cause” or as “reason for,” his ideas can serve as a convenient bridge between the arguments about explanation in the previous chapter and those to be presented in this chapter. Famously, Aristotle identified four distinct ways of giving reasons for a thing or an event to be what it is. These four ways he called the four causes. If we take a statue of a horse, for example, we may start by saying...

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