Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
A pragmatic account of scientific understanding is used both to examine and to unify fundamental questions concerning the propensity interpretation of probability and theories of chance, causation, and explanation. One of the most important problems to be addressed is the problem of defining homogeneous reference classes in theories of chance, causation, and explanation. The consistency of the propensity interpretation is defended against traditional criticisms such as "Humphreys's paradox." It is demonstrated that the application of this interpretation to theories of chance and probabilistic causation provides insights into problems common to both theories. Various approaches to causation are examined, including those based on identifying sufficient causal factors, necessary causal factors, and contrastive causes. These insights are applied to quantum mechanics and are presented in terms of a set of controlled experiments. The study of quantum mechanics focuses on the paradox of the two slit experiment and quantum logical and quantum probabilistic attempts to resolve this paradox. Finally, the analysis of chance and causation provides the basis for a version of the contrastive theory of explanation. This theory of explanation provides a unique understanding of the nature of explanation, and lessens the impact of the problems of homogeneity and of explanatory ambiguity.
McCurdy, Christopher S., "Propensities, Chance, Causation, And Contrastive Explanation" (1994). Digitized Theses. 2404.