This book argues for the place of capacities within an grounds of meaning, not method. Yet it is questions of method that should concern the modern empiricist: can capacities be measured? Cartwright argues that they are measured if anything is. Stanford University's Gravity-Probe-B will measure capacities in a cryogenic dewar deep in space. More mundanely, we use probabilities to measure capacities, and the assumptions required to ensure that probabilities are a
reliable instrument are investigated in the opening chapters of this book, where the early methods of econometrics set a model. The last chapter applies lessons about probabilities and capacities to
quantum mechanics and the Bell inequalities. The central thesis throughout is that capacities not only can be admitted by empiricists, but indeed must be - otherwise the empirical methods of modern science will make no sense.
`an extremely important and worthwhile book. Cartwright has ventured into exciting but largely unknown philosophical terrain ... all philosophers of causation will profit greatly from her explorations ... she has introduced a number of important new strands to the theory of causation ... [the] wealth of detail gives the book a depth of purpose which is rare in the philosophy of science.' D. Papineau, British Journal for the Philosophy of
`an interesting and original contribution to the realist argument'
L.Jonathan Cohen, Times Higher Education Supplment
`One of the admirable features of the book is its orientation towards constructive solutions to the problems it addresses ... Nature's Capacities and their Measurement provides us with a large variety of reasons for canvassing causal capacities in science. There are some things old, some things new, and some things borrowed within these covers of Oxford blue, but the whole package is undeniably provocative and thought
Paul Humphreys, University of Virginia, for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
`Cartwright presents a compelling case for the role of capacities in both natural and social science. Her examples strengthen the philosophical points in ways that take us well beyond traditional metaphysical arguments for capacities or dispositions.'
Margaret Morrison, Trinity College, University of Toronto, for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
`I think that Nancy Cartwright has written an interesting, informative, and penetrating book that defines a promising combination of realism and empiricism in the philosophy of science ... Cartwright's commendable book offers a rich, informed, and coherent approach to a variety of issues and topics pertaining to empiricism and realism in the philosophy of science.'
Ellery Eells, University of Wisconsin-Madison, for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research