Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy


Agent-Based Models as Etio-Prognostic Explanations [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Olaf Dammann
Topics: Epistemology, Philosophy of science, Theoretical philosophy

Agent-based models (ABMs) are one type of simulation model used in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast to equation-based models, ABMs are algorithms that use individual agents and attribute changing characteristics to each one, multiple times during multiple iterations over time. This paper focuses on three philosophical aspects of ABMs as models of causal mechanisms, as generators of emergent phenomena, and as providers of explanation. Based on my discussion, I conclude that while ABMs cannot help much with causal inference, they can be viewed as etio-prognostic explanations of…

Modeling Pandemic: Proximate and Ultimate Causes [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Federico Boem
Topics: Ecology, Epidemiology, Epistemology, Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of science

In the understanding and prediction of a pandemic phenomenon, epidemiology is obviously the dedicated discipline. However, epidemiological models look at what we might call the proximate causes of the pandemic. On the other hand, the ultimate causes, those of an ecological, evolutionary, and socio-economic nature, are often too simplified or reduced to “minor” variables in epidemiological models. In this article, in dealing with a pandemic, we want to support the need to extend the study and design of responses to the ultimate causes and the disciplines that investigate them, with…

Making Best Use of the Available Evidence: Mechanistic Evidence and the Management of the Covid-19 Pandemic [Special Issue]

Issue: Issue 13 • Author/s: Virginia Ghiara
Topics: Epidemiology, Epistemology, Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of science

In this paper, I argue that evidence of biological and socio-behavioural mechanisms can contribute to the management of Covid-19. I discuss two examples that show how scientists are using different forms of evidence, among which mechanistic evidence, to answer questions about the efficacy of vaccines against Covid-19 and the effectiveness of vaccination interventions in different contexts. In the first example I claim that, due to the fast pace of the pandemic, mechanistic reasoning and evidence of biological mechanisms play an important role in the study of vaccines’ efficacy and the…

Presentism and Causal Processes

Issue: Issue 07 • Author/s: Ernesto Graziani
Topics: Epistemology, Ontology, Philosophy of language, Theoretical philosophy

Presentism is the view that only present temporal entities (tenselessly) exist. A widely-discussed problem for presentism concerns causation and, more specifically, the supposed cross-temporally relational character of it. I think that the best reply to this problem can already be found in the literature on temporal ontology: it consists, roughly, in showing that (at least) some of the main approaches to causation can be rephrased so as to avoid commitment to any cross-temporal relation, including the causal relation itself. The main purpose of this paper is to extend this reply…

Max Black and Backwards Causation

Issue: Issue 14 • Author/s: Brian Garrett
Topics: Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ontology

In this discussion I point out that Max Black offers not one but two arguments against the (logical/metaphysical) possibility of backwards causation. Although both arguments fail in their intended aim, they show something of importance, viz., that defenders of backwards causation should understand Black’s Houdini example (and others like it) in terms of the ‘multiple causes’ model.