Levels of Reasons and Causal Explanation

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Skow, Bradford
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conference paper description
To answer the question why some event E occurred one must provide reasons why E occurred. So the idea that all explanations of events are causal can be understood as the theory that the reasons why some event occurred are its causes. My main thesis in this paper is that many "counterexamples" to this theory turn on confusing two levels of reasons. We should distinguish the reasons why an event occurred ("first-level reasons") from the reasons why those reasons are reasons ("second-level reasons"). An example that treats a second-level reason as a first-level reason will look like a counterexample if that second-level reason is not a cause. But second-level reasons need not be first-level reasons; nor (on my theory) need they be causes. Along the way I use the distinction between levels to diagnose the appeal of, and one main flaw in, the DN model of explanation.