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The Best Swimmers Drown – Mechanisms and Epistemic Risks: A constructive critique of Elster

Publiceringsår: 2007
Språk: Engelska
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Hommage à Wlodek. Philosophical papers dedicated to Wlodek Rabinowicz
Dokumenttyp: Working paper


According to Jon Elster, mechanisms are frequently occurring and easily recognizable causal patterns that are triggered under generally unknown conditions or with indeterminate consequences. In the absence of laws, moreover, mechanisms provide explanations. In this paper I argue that Elster’s view has difficulties with progressing knowledge. Normally, filling in the causal picture without revising it should not threaten one’s explanation. But this seems to be Elster’s case. The critique is constructive in the sense that it is built up from a discussion of a mechanism that might explain ‘unwarranted’ risk taking in connection with swimming—a mechanism that is mirrored in the proverb: The best swimmers drown.


  • Philosophy
  • explanation
  • causation
  • risk
  • mechanism



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