Mid-level theory: Without it what could anyone do?
Nancy Cartwright, Durham University &UCSD
Philosophy of science used to be criticized for excessive focus on fundamental theory. Now we do better. We study experimenting, modelling, representing, and a host of other practices as well as the role of values in science. What we don’t much study is non-fundamental theory – theory at the mid-level, which is where the heavy lifting is done. These lectures take us there. Measurement practices are an example of mid-level theory par excellence. Mechanisms too are a big tool at mid-level. During the course of the lectures we will look at both, including mechanisms of 3 different kinds: structural mechanisms (like the ones familiar in philosophy of biology), ‘theories of change’ of the kind now widely required in policy planning and Jon Elster-type mechanisms, like priming and cognitive dissonance. The theory of the democratic peace, that democracies do not go to war with democracies, will serve as a running example.
Lecture 1: Markers, mechanisms and measures
Lecture 2: Causal-chain models and theories of change
Lecture 3: Mechanisms and mid-level laws