Causes and Statistics

  • David Papineau


In the last chapter scientific theories were portrayed as consisting of structures of interrelated generalisations. Can we seriously aspire to such theories in the social realm? An obvious initial objection is that social reality is simply much too complicated to succumb to such analysis. Surely the complex processes of social development will not lend themselves easily to exceptionless generalisations of the form, ‘Whenever A, then always B’.


Statistical Association Skin Infection Causal Explanation Causal Connection Confounding Influence 
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  1. 1.
    See I. Hacking, The Logic of Statistical Inference (Cambridge University Press, 1965), especially Chapter VII, for a critique of the standard theory of statistical testing.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    L. Kish, ‘Some Statistical Problems in Research Design’, American Sociological Review Vol. XXIV (1959), is helpful on this point and on a number of related issues.Google Scholar
  3. 17.
    W. Salmon (with R. Jeffrey and J. Greeno), Statistical Explanation and Statistical Relevance (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1971 ).Google Scholar
  4. W. Salmon, ‘Theoretical Explanation’, in S. Körner (ed.), Explanation (Basil Blackwell, 1975 ).Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    See J. H. Fetzer, ‘Statistical Probabilities: Single Case Propensities vs. Long-Run Frequencies’, in W. Leinfellner and E. Köhler (eds.), Developments in the Methodology of Social Science (D. Reidel, 1974 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Papineau 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Papineau
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of CambridgeUK

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