Much of my work is in what I would describe as general philosophy of science—a subject which is regarded as unfashionable in some circles but which (properly understood) needs revival. I think of my work as mainly having to do with the methodology of the various sciences. (See 95, 100 for defenses of this idea.) It is general in the sense that it involves the exploration of concepts and strategies of explanation and inference that recur across many different areas of scientific investigation. However, I attempt to do this with a due regard to the details of the various particular sciences in which these concepts and strategies live—so that the result is (I hope) not general in the sense of being about (what Mark Wilson calls) Theory T.
In addition to work in general philosophy of science, I also maintain a strong interest in philosophy of psychology, philosophy of neurobiology, and philosophy of the social sciences.
Causation and Explanation
My work in general philosophy of science includes investigations of concepts of causation and explanation and on patterns of inductive inference employed in the various sciences. I am a defender of what is sometimes called an interventionist or manipulationist approach to causation and explanation. The general idea is that causal and explanatory claims can be elucidated and clarified by being associated with hypothetical experiments. Details can be found in my book Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation, winner of the 2005 Lakatos award in philosophy of science, and in a number of my papers.
In more recent work I have attempted to develop and extend this interventionist framework in various ways. First, I have attempted to apply it to issues having to do with understanding explanatory structures in psychology, neurobiology, and other areas of biology (e.g., 65, 66, 80, 91, 93). Second, I have attempted to integrate my more philosophical interests in causation with the results of empirical psychological studies of causal learning and reasoning. (e.g., 74, 75, 77, 79, 86, 92, 94 ). Here a guiding theme is that normative/philosophical theorizing and descriptive investigation can be mutually illuminating. Third, I have attempted to use the interventionist framework to illuminate various additional features of causal reasoning. These include what I call stability and specificity— some details can be found here (62, 80). My hope is to eventually bring all of this material together in a second book, tentatively entitled Causation with a Human Face.
Data, Phenomena, and Inference
I have written a series of papers, some with James Bogen and some independently, on the distinction between data and phenomena and on inferences from the former to the latter (e.g.,16, 18, 24, 38, 76, 78). Some other papers exploring themes having to do with inference and evidence in science include 63 and 81.
Philosophy of Psychology/ Mind/Neurobiology
I have long maintained an interest in these areas. I wrote an early paper with Terry Horgan defending folk psychology (9). More recent work on the structure of psychological and neuro-biological explanation includes (93).
Philosophy of Social Science and Economics
I have written a number of papers on the interpretation of causal modeling techniques used in the social and behavioral sciences and on conceptions of causation in econometrics (27, 32, 36). I’ve also worked on some issues arising out of experimental economics (71, 73, 82).
Empirical Ethics and Political Philosophy
Although this is not my primary area of research, I have always been interested in ethics and political philosophy. My meager early publications in this area (e.g., 4, 5, 12, 15, 22) were not empirically oriented at all, but more recently I have become interested in how empirical information about the psychology and neurobiology of moral judgment and decision-making and empirical information about behavior of the sort explored in experimental economics might inform and constrain normative theorizing in ethics and political philosophy. This interest has led to several papers on the neural underpinnings of moral decision-making (see 70, 71, 72, 90) and on the relevance of empirical information about human cooperation to normative theorizing about justice and reciprocity (71,73,82).
I am concerned by the extent to which this (or at least its incarnation as metaphysics of science) seems to be displacing more methodological concerns in philosophy of science and also by the way in which it seems to be motivated by mistaken ideas about science. See 89 and 100.