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Explanation

Edited by Brad Weslake (University of Rochester)
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  1. Robert Ackermann & Alfred Stenner (1966). A Corrected Model of Explanation. Philosophy of Science 33 (1/2):168-.
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  2. Michael G. Adelberg (1994). The Natural History of Explanation. Panurge Press.
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  3. Sergio Daniel Barberis (2012). Un Análisis Crítico de la Concepción Mecanicista de la Explicación. Revista Latinoamericana de Filosofía 38 (2):233-265.
    En este trabajo me propongo desarrollar un estudio crítico de la concepción mecanicista de la explicación científica. En primer lugar, argumento que la caracterización mecanicista de los modelos fenoménicos (no explicativos) es inadecuada, pues no ofrece un análisis aceptable de los conceptos de modelo científico y similitud, que son fundamentales para la propuesta. En segundo lugar, sostengo que la caracterización de los modelos mecanicistas (explicativos) es igualmente inadecuada, pues los análisis disponibles de la relación explicativa de relevancia constitutiva implican una (...)
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  4. Alisa Bokulich (2008). Can Classical Structures Explain Quantum Phenomena? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 59 (2):217-235.
    In semiclassical mechanics one finds explanations of quantum phenomena that appeal to classical structures. These explanations are prima facie problematic insofar as the classical structures they appeal to do not exist. Here I defend the view that fictional structures can be genuinely explanatory by introducing a model-based account of scientific explanation. Applying this framework to the semiclassical phenomenon of wavefunction scarring, I argue that not only can the fictional classical trajectories explain certain aspects of this quantum phenomenon, but also that (...)
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  5. Seamus Bradley, Scientific Uncertainty: A User's Guide. Grantham Institute on Climate Change Discussion Paper.
    There are different kinds of uncertainty. I outline some of the various ways that uncertainty enters science, focusing on uncertainty in climate science and weather prediction. I then show how we cope with some of these sources of error through sophisticated modelling techniques. I show how we maintain confidence in the face of error.
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  6. Leen De Vreese (2006). Causal Pluralism and Scientific Knowledge: An Underexposed Problem. Philosophica 77.
    Causal pluralism is currently a hot topic in philosophy. However, the consequences of this view on causation for scientific knowledge and scientific methodology are heavily underexposed in the present debate. My aim in this paper is to argue that an epistemological-methodological point of view should be valued as a line of approach on its own and to demonstrate how epistemological- methodological causal pluralism differs in its scope from conceptual and metaphysical causal pluralism. Further, I defend epistemological-methodological causal pluralism and try (...)
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  7. Monika Dullstein (2007). Causal Dualism: Which Position? Which Arguments? In F. Russo & J. Williamson (eds.), Causality and Probability in the Sciences. College Publications. 5--363.
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  8. Patryk Dziurosz-Serafinowicz (2012). Common Cause Abduction: Its Scope and Limits. Filozofia Nauki 4.
    This article aims to analyze the scope and limits of common cause abduction which is a version of explanatory abduction based on Hans Reichenbach’s Principle of the Common Cause. First, it is argued that common cause abduction can be regarded as a rational inferential mechanism that enables us to accept hypotheses that aim to account for the surprising correlations of events. Three arguments are presented in support of common cause abduction: the argument from screening-off, the argument from likelihood, and the (...)
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  9. Laura Felline (2010). Remarks on a Structural Account of Scientific Explanation. In M. Suarez, M. Dorato & M. Redei (eds.), Launch of the European Philosophy of Science Association. Springer. 43--53.
    The problems that exist in relating quantum mechanical phenomena to classical concepts like properties, causes, or entities like particles or waves are well-known and still open to question, so that there is not yet an agreement on what kind of metaphysics lies at the foundations of quantum mechanics. However, physicists constantly use the formal resources of quantum mechanics in order to explain quantum phenomena. The structural account of explanation, therefore, tries to account for this kind of mathematical explanation in physics, (...)
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  10. Alexander Gebharter (2013). Solving the Flagpole Problem. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 44 (1):63-67.
    In this paper I demonstrate that the causal structure of flagpole-like systems can be determined by application of causal graph theory. Additional information about the ordering of events in time or about how parameters of the systems of interest can be manipulated is not needed.
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  11. Alexander Gebharter & Gerhard Schurz (2012). For a Better Understanding of Causality. Metascience 21 (3):643-648.
    For a better understanding of causality Content Type Journal Article Category Essay Review Pages 1-6 DOI 10.1007/s11016-012-9648-3 Authors Alexander Gebharter, Department of Philosophy, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstraße 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany Gerhard Schurz, Department of Philosophy, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstraße 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
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  12. Stephan Hartmann, Marcel Weber, Wenceslao Gonzalez, Dennis Dieks & Thomas Uebe (eds.) (forthcoming). Explanation, Prediction, and Confirmation: New Trends and Old Ones Reconsidered. Springer.
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  13. A. F. Heath (ed.) (1981). Scientific Explanation: Papers Based on Herbert Spencer Lectures Given in the University of Oxford. Clarendon.
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  14. Phyllis Illari (2013). Mechanistic Explanation: Integrating the Ontic and Epistemic. Erkenntnis 78 (2):237-255.
    Craver claims that mechanistic explanation is ontic, while Bechtel claims that it is epistemic. While this distinction between ontic and epistemic explanation originates with Salmon, the ideas have changed in the modern debate on mechanistic explanation, where the frame of the debate is changing. I will explore what Bechtel and Craver’s claims mean, and argue that good mechanistic explanations must satisfy both ontic and epistemic normative constraints on what is a good explanation. I will argue for ontic constraints by drawing (...)
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  15. Nicholaos Jones (2013). Don't Blame the Idealizations. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 44 (1):85-100.
    Idealizing conditions are scapegoats for scientific hypotheses, too often blamed for falsehood better attributed to less obvious sources. But while the tendency to blame idealizations is common among both philosophers of science and scientists themselves, the blame is misplaced. Attention to the nature of idealizing conditions, the content of idealized hypotheses, and scientists’ attitudes toward those hypotheses shows that idealizing conditions are blameless when hypotheses misrepresent. These conditions help to determine the content of idealized hypotheses, and they do so in (...)
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  16. Stephen Kearns & Daniel Star (forthcoming). Weighing Explanations. In Andrew Reisner & Iwao Hirose (eds.), Weighing and Reasoning: A Festschrift for John Broome. Oxford University Press.
  17. Eleanor Knox, Abstraction and its Limits: Finding Space for Novel Explanation.
    Several modern accounts of explanation acknowledge the importance of abstraction and idealization for our explanatory practice. However, once we allow a role for abstraction, questions remain. I ask whether the relation between explanations at different theoretical levels should be thought of wholly in terms of abstraction, and argue that changes of variable between theories can lead to novel explanations that are not merely abstractions of some more detailed picture. I use the example of phase transitions as described by statistical mechanics (...)
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  18. Caterina Marchionni (2006). Contrastive Explanation and Unrealistic Models: The Case of the New Economic Geography. Journal of Economic Methodology 13 (4):425-446.
    The contrastive approach to explanation is employed to shed light on the issue of the unrealisticness of models and their assumptions in economics. If we take explanations to be answers to contrastive questions of the form, then unrealistic elements such as omissions and idealizations are (at least partly) dependent on the selected contrast. These contrast?dependent assumptions are shown to serve the function of fixing the shared causal background between the fact and the foil. It is argued that looking at the (...)
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  19. Fabio Minazzi (forthcoming). Representation and Explanation In Science in the Opinion of Galileo and Einstein. Epistemologia.
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  20. Friday N. Ndubuisi (2008). Karl Popper on the Philosophy Of Dynamism in Science. Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 40:67-82.
    There are a number of contentious issues in the study of philosophy of science. There is the issue of method, there is the issue of subject-matter, there is the issue of truth and certainty as well as the issue of rationality, and the utility of scientific discoveries. Popper demonstrated a lot of interest in the issue of method, stressing ways and means science as a living enterprise could make progress. His theory of conjecture and refutation, or falsifiability is in pursuance (...)
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  21. Robert T. Pennock (1995). Epistemic and Ontic Theories of Explanation and Confirmation. Kagaku Tetsugaku 28:31-45.
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  22. Joseph C. Pitt (1988). Galileo, Rationality and Explanation. Philosophy of Science 55 (1):87-103.
    It is argued that Galileo's theory of justification was a version of explanationism. Galileo's Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems is to be read as primarily a defense of his theory of the tides. He shows how, by assuming Copernican motions, he can explain the tides, thereby justifying the endorsement of Copernicus. The crux of the argument rests on Galileo's account of explanation, which is novel in its reliance on the use of geometry. Finally, the consequences of his use (...)
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  23. J. Brian Pitts (2013). Irrelevant Conjunction and the Ratio Measure or Historical Skepticism. Synthese 190 (12):2117-2139.
    It is widely believed that one should not become more confident that all swans are white and all lions are brave simply by observing white swans. Irrelevant conjunction or “tacking” of a theory onto another is often thought problematic for Bayesianism, especially given the ratio measure of confirmation considered here. It is recalled that the irrelevant conjunct is not confirmed at all. Using the ratio measure, the irrelevant conjunction is confirmed to the same degree as the relevant conjunct, which, it (...)
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  24. Stathis Psillos (2007). Past and Contemporary Perspectives on Explanation. In Theo A. F. Kuipers (ed.), General Philosophy of Science. North Holland. 2007--97.
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  25. Erich H. Reck (2013). Hempel, Carnap, and the Covering Law Model. In. In Nikolay Milkov & Volker Peckhaus (eds.), The Berlin Group and the Philosophy of Logical Empiricism. Springer. 311--324.
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  26. Julian Reiss (2012). The Explanation Paradox. Journal of Economic Methodology 19 (1):43-62.
    This paper examines mathematical models in economics and observes that three mutually inconsistent hypotheses concerning models and explanation are widely held: (1) economic models are false; (2) economic models are nevertheless explanatory; and (3) only true accounts explain. Commentators have typically resolved the paradox by rejecting either one of these hypotheses. I will argue that none of the proposed resolutions work and conclude that therefore the paradox is genuine and likely to stay.
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  27. Collin Rice (2013). Moving Beyond Causes: Optimality Models and Scientific Explanation. Noûs 48 (2).
    A prominent approach to scientific explanation and modeling claims that for a model to provide an explanation it must accurately represent at least some of the actual causes in the event's causal history. In this paper, I argue that many optimality explanations present a serious challenge to this causal approach. I contend that many optimality models provide highly idealized equilibrium explanations that do not accurately represent the causes of their target system(s). Furthermore, in many contexts, it is in virtue of (...)
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  28. Wesley C. Salmon & Anne Fagot-Largeault (1994). Four Decades of Scientific Explanation. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 16 (2):355.
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  29. William E. Seager (1987). Scientific Explanation and the Trial of Galileo. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 1 (2):176 – 195.
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  30. Jan Sprenger (2013). A Synthesis of Hempelian and Hypothetico-Deductive Confirmation. Erkenntnis 78 (4):727-738.
    This paper synthesizes confirmation by instances and confirmation by successful predictions, and thereby the Hempelian and the hypothetico-deductive traditions in confirmation theory. The merger of these two approaches is subsequently extended to the piecemeal confirmation of entire theories. It is then argued that this synthetic account makes a useful contribution from both a historical and a systematic perspective.
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  31. Janet D. Stemwedel (2004). Explanation, Unification, and What Chemistry Gets From Causation. Philosophy of Science 71 (5):1060-1070.
    I consider a way the concept of causation could be excised from chemical practice, suggested by Kitcher's view that causes are just a subset of unifying patterns which play a particular psychological role for us. \Kitcherian chemistry is at first blush well equipped to handle explanatory tasks. However, it would force chemists to accept certain unifying patterns as explanatory, which they do not think are at all explanatory. This might head off some descriptive lines of enquiry and damage prospects for (...)
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  32. D. C. Stove (1982). Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists. Pergamon Press.
  33. Michael Strevens (2006). Scientific Explanation. In D. M. Borchert (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, second edition.
    The three cardinal aims of science are prediction, control, and explanation; but the greatest of these is explanation. Also the most inscrutable: prediction aims at truth, and control at happiness, and insofar as we have some independent grasp of these notions, we can evaluate science’s strategies of prediction and control from the outside. Explanation, by contrast, aims at scientific understanding, a good intrinsic to science and therefore something that it seems we can only look to science itself to explicate.
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  34. Roger Trigg (1993). Rationality and Science: Can Science Explain Everything? Blackwell.
    In this important new work, Professor Trigg deals with the question of the rational foundations of science.
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  35. J. D. Trout (2007). The Psychology of Scientific Explanation. Philosophy Compass 2 (3):564–591.
    Philosophers agree that scientific explanations aim to produce understanding, and that good ones succeed in this aim. But few seriously consider what understanding is, or what the cues are when we have it. If it is a psychological state or process, describing its specific nature is the job of psychological theorizing. This article examines the role of understanding in scientific explanation. It warns that the seductive, phenomenological sense of understanding is often, but mistakenly, viewed as a cue of genuine understanding. (...)
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  36. Jennifer Trusted (1987). Inquiry and Understanding: An Introduction to Explanation in the Physical and Human Sciences. Macmillan Education.
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  37. Max Urchs (1999). Complementary Explanations. Synthese 120 (1):137-149.
    Scientific explanations arc subject to the occurrence of inconsistencies. To rule them out in many cases demands the construction of new theories. As the examples of complementary explanations show, that may take a while. Furthermore, even if possible in principle, it is not always reasonable to eliminate inconsistencies immediately, e.g., by bringing in a more sophisticated formal language. After all, under some circumstances a provisional, not fully coherent explanation may be better than none. In any case, we need a logically (...)
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  38. Erik Weber (1996). Explaining, Understanding and Scientific Theories. Erkenntnis 44 (1):1 - 23.
    One of the functions of scientific knowledge is to provide the theories and laws we need in order to understand the world. My article deals with the epistemic aspect of understanding, i.e., with understanding as unification. The aim is to explicate what we have to do in order to make our scientific knowledge contribute to an increase of the degree to which the particular events we have observed, fit into our world-picture. The analysis contains two parts. First I define the (...)
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  39. M. Norton Wise (ed.) (2004). Growing Explanations: Historical Perspectives on Recent Science. Duke University Press.
    This collection addresses a post-WWII shift in the hierarchy of scientific explanations, where the highest goal moves from reductionism towards some ...
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Theories of Explanation
  1. Ingo Brigandt (forthcoming). Evolutionary Developmental Biology and the Limits of Philosophical Accounts of Mechanistic Explanation. In P.-A. Braillard and C. Malaterre (ed.), Explanation in Biology: An Enquiry into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences. Springer.
    Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) is considered a ‘mechanistic science,’ in that it causally explains morphological evolution in terms of changes in developmental mechanisms. Evo-devo is also an interdisciplinary and integrative approach, as its explanations use contributions from many fields and pertain to different levels of organismal organization. Philosophical accounts of mechanistic explanation are currently highly prominent, and have been particularly able to capture the integrative nature of multifield and multilevel explanations. However, I argue that evo-devo demonstrates the need for a (...)
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  2. Nicholas Rescher (1970). Scientific Explanation. New York,Free Press.
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  3. David-Hillel Ruben (ed.) (1993). Explanation. Oxford University Press.
    The aim of this series is to bring together important recent writings in major areas of philosophical inquiry, selected from a variety of sources, mostly periodicals, which may not be conveniently available to the university student or the general reader. The editor of each volume contributes an introductory essay on the items chosen and on the questions with which they deal. A selective bibliography is appended as a guide to further reading. This volume presents a selection of the most important (...)
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  4. David-Hillel Ruben (1990). Explaining Explanation. Routledge.
    Getting our Bearings The series in which this book is appearing is called 'The Problems of Philosophy: Their Past and Present'; this volume, ...
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  5. Kari L. Theurer (2014). Seventeenth-Century Mechanism: An Alternative Framework for Reductionism. Philosophy of Science 80 (5):907-918.
    The current antireductionist consensus rests in part on the indefensibility of the deductive-nomological model of explanation, on which classical reductionism depends. I argue that the DN model is inessential to the reductionist program and that mechanism provides a better framework for thinking about reductionism. This runs counter to the contemporary mechanists’ claim that mechanism is an alternative to reductionism. I demonstrate that mechanists are committed to reductionism, as evidenced by the historical roots of the contemporary mechanist program. This view shares (...)
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  6. Jeroen van Bouwel, Erik Weber & Leen de Vreese (2011). Indispensability Arguments in Favour of Reductive Explanations. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 42 (1):33-46.
    Instances of explanatory reduction are often advocated on metaphysical grounds; given that the only real things in the world are subatomic particles and their interaction, we have to try to explain everything in terms of the laws of physics. In this paper, we show that explanatory reduction cannot be defended on metaphysical grounds. Nevertheless, indispensability arguments for reductive explanations can be developed, taking into account actual scientific practice and the role of epistemic interests. Reductive explanations might be indispensable to address (...)
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  7. Erik Weber, Jeroen Van Bouwel & Leen De Vreese (2013). Scientific Explanation. Springer.
    When scientist investigate why things happen, they aim at giving an explanation. But what does a scientific explanation look like? In the first chapter (Theories of Scientific Explanation) of this book, the milestones in the debate on how to characterize scientific explanations are exposed. The second chapter (How to Study Scientific Explanation?) scrutinizes the working-method of three important philosophers of explanation, Carl Hempel, Philip Kitcher and Wesley Salmon and shows what went wrong. Next, it is the responsibility of current philosophers (...)
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Causal Accounts of Explanation
  1. Daniela Bailer-Jones, Monika Dullstein & Sabina Pauen (eds.) (2007). Kausales Denken: Philosophische und Psychologische Perspektiven. Mentis.
    Kausales Denken spielt sowohl im Alltag wie auch im wissenschaftlichen Forschungsprozess eine zentrale Rolle. Es erlaubt uns, Phänomene vorherzusagen, zu kontrollieren und zu verstehen. Kausales Denken geht über die Angabe der Ursachen eines Phänomens hinaus: Wollen wir verstehen, warum ein Fahrrad fährt, so versuchen wir, Schritt für Schritt nachzuvollziehen, wie die einzelnen Bestandteile des Fahrrads zusammenwirken, um miteinander die Bewegung zu produzieren. Wir sind an dem Mechanismus interessiert, durch den das Phänomen zustande kommt. Dieses Vorgehen wird in der Wissenschaftsphilosophie wie (...)
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  2. Ingo Brigandt (2013). Explanation in Biology: Reduction, Pluralism, and Explanatory Aims. Science and Education 22 (1):69-91.
    This essay analyzes and develops recent views about explanation in biology. Philosophers of biology have parted with the received deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation primarily by attempting to capture actual biological theorizing and practice. This includes an endorsement of different kinds of explanation (e.g., mathematical and causal-mechanistic), a joint study of discovery and explanation, and an abandonment of models of theory reduction in favor of accounts of explanatory reduction. Of particular current interest are philosophical accounts of complex explanations that appeal (...)
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  3. Alex Broadbent (2011). Inferring Causation in Epidemiology: Mechanisms, Black Boxes, and Contrasts. In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press. 45--69.
    This chapter explores the idea that causal inference is warranted if and only if the mechanism underlying the inferred causal association is identified. This mechanistic stance is discernible in the epidemiological literature, and in the strategies adopted by epidemiologists seeking to establish causal hypotheses. But the exact opposite methodology is also discernible, the black box stance, which asserts that epidemiologists can and should make causal inferences on the basis of their evidence, without worrying about the mechanisms that might underlie their (...)
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  4. L. R. Franklin-Hall, High-Level Explanation and the Interventionist's 'Variables Problem'.
    The interventionist account of causal explanation, in the version presented by Jim Woodward (2003), has been recently claimed capable of buttressing the widely felt—though poorly understood—hunch that high-level, relatively abstract explanations, of the sort provided by sciences like biology, psychology and economics, are in some cases explanatorily optimal. It is the aim of this paper to show that this is mistaken. Due to a lack of effective constraints on the causal variables at the heart of the interventionist causal-explanatory scheme, as (...)
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