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The Why of ThingsCausality in Science, Medicine, and Life$
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Peter Rabins

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164726

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164726.001.0001

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Historical Overview

Historical Overview

The Four Approaches to Causality

(p.6) 1 Historical Overview
The Why of Things

Peter V. Rabins

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines how the concept of cause has evolved over 4,000 years of recorded history. It begins by clarifying the meaning of the word “cause” and shows how the earliest human writings demonstrate the centrality of the concept of causality to humankind. It then considers the idea that individual humans can cause events, which has been present in Eastern and Western thought for thousands of years. It also looks at the Greeks' development of the Western tradition of analytic thinking as a source of knowledge, including Aristotle's proposed multifactorial model of cause and effect. Finally, it discusses the emergence and development of the scientific method that altered the conceptualization of cause and the methods for demonstrating causality; Galileo's rejection of the Aristotelian model of cause; Immanuel Kant's concepts of cause and causality; application of the “direct-agent” model of cause to medicine; and the emergence of probabilism.

Keywords:   cause, causality, analytic thinking, Aristotle, scientific method, Galileo, Immanuel Kant, direct-agent model, medicine, probabilism

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