Causality in Archaeological Explanation

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Citation: Salmon, W. (1982) Causality in Archaeological Explanation. In Theory and Explanation in Archaeology. Academic Press. Edited by C. Renfrew, M. J. Rowlands and B. A. Segraves.pp.45-56, Academic Press inc. (RSS)
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In this article, the author introduces three main approaches of scientific explanations which are Hempel’s two inference models, deductive-nomological (DN) and inductive-statistical (IS) models and the author’s statistical-relevance (SR) models, explains their characteristic, differences, and limitations and presents a suggestion. Brief summary of this article is that archaeologist started to use scientific explanation after Hempel’s introduction of DN model, but they found some limitation, so Hempel suggested IS model and the author also suggested SR model, but there were some criticisms that the models need a high-probability requirement. And there was another criticism for SR for failure to take proper explanation of causal consideration. In this situation, the author suggested the combination SR model and statistical relevance.

The inferential conception (Hempel’s) is to make an argument that shows the phenomenon to be explained was to be expected based on the explanatory facts. The causal conception is to identify the cause that generated the phenomenon to be explained. But those two conceptions cannot explain everything. For example radiocarbon dating has no mechanism of law or causality, it indicates only statistical phenomenon. Evolution is also statistical phenomenon which show that particular organism would survive or not. The causality conception only can be used in the events have maximised condition. Likewise we cannot apply scientific explanation (the inferential conception and causal conception) to every case. Also statistical relevance does not say much to the events.

Therefore combination of both scientific explanation and statistical relevance is proposed but the inferential conception does not have to be contained. The causal conception or SR is enough to combine. Even, scientific explanation is not need in some part. Only essential factor is causal conception. However, this new approach also has some problems because there are possibilities of existences of plural factors of cause in certain phenomenon and vice versa (several assumptions).