James F. Woodward

J. O. and Juliette Koepfli Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus
B.A., Carleton College, 1968; Ph.D., University of Texas (Austin), 1977. Mellon Postdoctoral Instructor, Caltech, 1983-86; Assistant Professor, 1986-88; Associate Professor, 1988-92; Professor, 1992-2001; Koepfli Professor, 2001-2010; Koepfli Professor Emeritus, 2010-. Executive Officer for the Humanities, 1992-95; 2000-2003.

Research Statement


My current research interests fall into three categories:

  1. Philosophical/ Normative Issues in Causation and Explanation. I've continued to defend and extend the interventionist account of causation/explanation developed in my recent book, Making Things Happen. (Oxford, 2003). I've applied it to a number of new problems and examples. Relevant work includes items # 52, 54, 55, 56, 59, 60 from vita.
  2. Issues in the Empirical Psychology of Causal judgment and Learning. I'm in a collaboration funded by the McDonnell foundation that brings together philosophers, psychologists, and researchers in computational modeling with a common interest in empirical issues having to do with how children and adults learn about causal relationships. The collaboration is premised on the idea that philosophical and computational accounts of causation and psychological theorizing and experimental work should mutually inform each other. Item # 57 explores results in the psychology and primatology literature bearing on causal learning and understanding from an interventionist perspective. Another paper, in the early stages, will explore the relationship between, on the one hand, "causal perception" and "object permanence" phenomena and, on the other hand, the more action oriented approach associated with interventionist accounts. Issues about the modularity and innateness of causal perception and judgment will also be explored in this context.
  3. Empirical ethics. I'm in the early stages of several collaborative projects exploring how people behave in morally charged situations and the mechanisms that underlie such behavior. Ralph Adolphs, his graduate student, Jessica Edwards, and I are looking at demographic (e.g gender) and individual traits (e.g., scores on empathy scales) that may be correlated with subjects willingness to endorse deontological as opposed to consequentialist moral judgments. John Allman and are working on a paper on the role of the insula in moral judgment and its connection to so-called moral intuitions. Steve Quartz and I plan an fMRI investigation into neural mechanisms associated with the contrast between action and omission. This complements earlier work I've done in normative ethics (4, 5, 12, 15, 22).
Selected Publications 

Capacities and Invariance, in J. Earman, A. Janis, G. Massey, and N. Rescher, Philosophical Problems of the Internal and External Worlds: Essays Concerning the Philosophy of Adolph Grünbaum, University of Pittsburgh Press, (1993), pp. 283-328.

Causal Modeling, Probabilities and Invariance, in the proceedings of a conference entitled Causality in Crisis? The New Debate About Causal Structures in the Social Sciences held at Notre Dame, October 1993. Scheduled for publication in 1997.

Evading the IRS, with James Bogen, in Correcting the Model: Idealization and Abstraction in Science, eds. Nancy Cartwright and Martin Jones. Rodopi Publishers, Holland, 1997.

Mail Code: