Discussion Questions on Woodward (I)

1. What dilemma does Woodward see concerning explanation in the special sciences (p. 198)?

2. Woodward summaries the key elements of his view as (1) that explanatory relationships can in principle be used for manipulation and (2) a generalization is explanatory if and only if it is invariant under intervention. What do these theses mean and how are they related to one another?

3. Without getting into all the detail, what is an "intervention" and why are interventions important?

4. Woodward argues that causal explanation is linked to the possibility of exhibiting patterns of counterfactual dependence. What does this mean? Do you think he is right?

5. What does Woodward mean by "invariance"? In his view, invariance comes in degrees. How does one measure how invariant a generalization is. To what is the degree of invariance of a generalization relevant?

6. What is the point of the example on p. 205 from Haavelmo?

7. Economic theories are not invariant to the ingestion of mind-altering drugs. Why, according to Woodward, are economists unconcerned about this?

8. One important explanatory generalization in economics is that people prefer larger bundles of commodities to small bundles of commodities. Yet people give to charity and sometimes quit higher paying jobs in order to have more time with their children. There are two ways to deal with these apparent counterexamples to the generalization, which Woodward calls "independent specification" and "exception incorporation". What are these and why, according to Woodward, is independent specification superior to exception incorporation.

9. How does Woodward's account of scientific explanation compare to the deductive nomological model?