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Explanatory Autonomy and Coleman’s Boat

Little, Daniel (2012) Explanatory Autonomy and Coleman’s Boat. THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, 27 (2). pp. 137-151. ISSN 2171-679X

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The paper addresses the question of whether an actor-centered social ontology can admit of relatively
autonomous social causal explanations. It offers an alternative to the theory of social causation represented
by Coleman’s Boat, according to which all macro-explanations must proceed through micro-level processes.
The paper argues instead that the examples of other special sciences demonstrate the validity of the
idea of “relative explanatory autonomy” in the case of social causal reasoning. These considerations provide
a basis for affirming the legitimacy of causal statements about meso-level causal relations.

El artículo aborda el problema de si una ontología social centrada en el agente puede admitir explicaciones
causales a nivel social relativamente autónomas. Se ofrece una alternativa a la teoría de la causación social
representada por el barco de Coleman, según la cual toda macro-explicación debe articularse sobre micro-
procesos. Defendemos que los ejemplos de otras ciencias particulares demuestran la validez de la idea
de una “relativa autonomía explicativa” en el caso del razonamiento causal sobre procesos sociales. Estos
principios justifican la afirmación de la legitimidad de los enunciados causales sobre meso-relaciones causales.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Additional Information: ISSN: 0495-4548 (print)
Keywords: causal mechanisms; causal powers; microfoundations; social structure; methodological localism; mecanismos causales; poderes causales; microfundamentos; estructura social; localismo metodológico
Depositing User: Users 15304 not found.
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2014 22:55
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2014 22:55
Item ID: 10227
Journal or Publication Title: THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science
Publisher: Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del País Vasco
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1387/theoria.3016.
Date: May 2012
Page Range: pp. 137-151
Volume: 27
Number: 2
ISSN: 2171-679X

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