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  1. D. Z. Andriopoulos (2008). Comments on Plato's Causal Explanation. Philosophical Inquiry 30 (3-4):115-143.
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  2. Ruth Berger (1998). Understanding Science: Why Causes Are Not Enough. Philosophy of Science 65 (2):306-332.
    This paper is an empirical critique of causal accounts of scientific explanation. Drawing on explanations which rely on nonlinear dynamical modeling, I argue that the requirement of causal relevance is both too strong and too weak to be constitutive of scientific explanation. In addition, causal accounts obscure how the process of mathematical modeling produces explanatory information. I advance three arguments for the inadequacy of causal accounts. First, I argue that explanatorily relevant information is not always information about causes, even in (...)
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  3. George Botterill (2010). Two Kinds of Causal Explanation. Theoria 76 (4):287-313.
    To give a causal explanation is to give information about causal history. But a vast amount of causal history lies behind anything that happens, far too much to be included in any intelligible explanation. This is the Problem of Limitation for explanatory information. To cope with this problem, explanations must select for what is relevant to and adequate for answering particular inquiries. In the present paper this idea is used in order to distinguish two kinds of causal explanation, on the (...)
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  4. 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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  5. Daniel Cohnitz, Explanations Are Like Salted Peanuts. Why You Can't Cut the Route Toward Further Reduction.
    This paper is a defense of an elaborated ideal explanatory text conception against criticism as put forward by Bob Batterman. It is argued that Batterman's critique of "philosophical" accounts of scientific explanation is inadequate.
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  6. Haskell Fain (1963). Some Problems of Causal Explanation. Mind 72 (288):519-532.
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  7. John Forge (1993). Errors of Measurement and Explanation-as-Unification. Philosophia 22 (1-2):41-61.
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  8. Victor Gijsbers (2007). Why Unification is Neither Necessary nor Sufficient for Explanation. Philosophy of Science 74 (4):481-500.
    In this paper, I argue that unification is neither necessary nor sufficient for explanation. Focusing on the versions of the unificationist theory of explanation of Kitcher and of Schurz and Lambert, I establish three theses. First, Kitcher’s criterion of unification is vitiated by the fact that it entails that every proposition can be explained by itself, a flaw that it is unable to overcome. Second, because neither Kitcher’s theory nor that of Schurz and Lambert can solve the problems of asymmetry (...)
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  9. Olav Gjelsvik (2007). Causal Explanation Provides Knowledge Why. In Johannes Persson & Petri Ylikoski (eds.), Rethinking Explanation. Springer. 69--92.
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  10. Christopher Read Hitchcock (1996). The Mechanist and the Snail. Philosophical Studies 84 (1):91 - 105.
    Introduction: One of the most influential theories of scientific explanation to have emerged in the past two decades is Salmon's causal/mechanical theory (Salmon 1984). According to this account, scientific explanations describe a network of causal processes and interactions. In this paper, I will use an example from evolutionary biology to argue that the causal nexus, as characterized by Salmon, is not rich enough to account for many causal explanations in the sciences.
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  11. David Michael Kaplan & Carl F. Craver (2011). The Explanatory Force of Dynamical and Mathematical Models in Neuroscience: A Mechanistic Perspective. Philosophy of Science 78 (4):601-627.
    We argue that dynamical and mathematical models in systems and cognitive neuro- science explain (rather than redescribe) a phenomenon only if there is a plausible mapping between elements in the model and elements in the mechanism for the phe- nomenon. We demonstrate how this model-to-mechanism-mapping constraint, when satisfied, endows a model with explanatory force with respect to the phenomenon to be explained. Several paradigmatic models including the Haken-Kelso-Bunz model of bimanual coordination and the difference-of-Gaussians model of visual receptive fields are (...)
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  12. Sheldon Krimsky (1976). On Deductive Non-Nomological Explanation. Philosophia 6 (2):303-308.
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  13. T. Percy Nunn (1906). On Causal Explanation. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 7:50 - 80.
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  14. Nicholas Rescher (1970). Scientific Explanation. New York,Free Press.
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  15. 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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  16. 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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  17. Juha Saatsi & Mark Pexton (forthcoming). Reassessing Woodward's Account of Explanation: Regularities, Counterfactuals, and Noncausal Explanations. Philosophy of Science 80 (5):613-624.
    We reassess Woodward’s counterfactual account of explanation in relation to regularity explananda. Woodward presents an account of causal explanation. We argue, by using an explanation of Kleiber’s law to illustrate, that the account can also cover some noncausal explanations. This leads to a tension between the two key aspects of Woodward’s account: the counterfactual aspect and the causal aspect. We explore this tension and make a case for jettisoning the causal aspect as constitutive of explanatory power in connection with regularity (...)
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  18. Rebecca Schweder (1999). Causal Explanation and Explanatory Selection. Synthese 120 (1):115-124.
    It is observed that in ordinary everyday causal explanations often just one causal factor is mentioned. One causal factor carries the explanatory burden, even if there are several causal factors that are responsible for the event to be explained. This paper deals with the question of how to account for this explanatory selection. I argue for a pragmatic stance towards explanation, that we must attend to the question–answer situation as a whole and the context of the explanation. The context of (...)
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  19. 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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  20. 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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  21. Erik Weber (1996). How to Construct a Deductive-Nomological Explanation? Dialectica 50 (3):183-203.
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  22. 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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  23. Erik Weber, Jeroen Van Bouwel & Robrecht Vanderbeeken (2005). Forms of Causal Explanation. Foundations of Science 10 (4):437-454.
    In the literature on scientific explanation two types of pluralism are very common. The first concerns the distinction between explanations of singular facts and explanations of laws: there is a consensus that they have a different structure. The second concerns the distinction between causal explanations and uni.cation explanations: most people agree that both are useful and that their structure is different. In this article we argue for pluralism within the area of causal explanations: we claim that the structure of a (...)
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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, The Emperor's New Mechanisms.
    This paper argues that the increasingly dominant new mechanistic approach to scientific explanation, as developed to date, does not shed new light on explanatory practice. First, I systematize the explanatory account, one according to which explanations are mechanistic models that satisfy three desiderata: 1) they must represent causal relations, 2) describe the proper parts, and 3) depict the system at the right ‘level.’ Then I argue that even the most promising attempts to flesh out these constraints have fallen far short. (...)
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  5. L. R. Franklin-Hall (forthcoming). Explaining Causal Selection with Explanatory Causal Economy: Biology and Beyond. In P.-A. Braillard & C. Malaterre (eds.), Explanation in Biology: An Enquiry into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences. Springer.
    Among the factors necessary for the occurrence of some event, which of these are selectively highlighted in its explanation and labeled as causes — and which are explanatorily omitted, or relegated to the status of background conditions? Following J. S. Mill, most have thought that only a pragmatic answer to this question was possible. In this paper I suggest we understand this ‘causal selection problem’ in causal-explanatory terms, and propose that explanatory trade-offs between abstraction and stability can provide a principled (...)
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  6. L. R. Franklin-Hall (forthcoming). High-Level Explanation and the Interventionist's 'Variables Problem'. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axu040.
    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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  7. Toby Handfield, Charles R. Twardy, Kevin B. Korb & Graham Oppy (2008). The Metaphysics of Causal Models: Where's the Biff? Erkenntnis 68 (2):149-68.
    This paper presents an attempt to integrate theories of causal processes—of the kind developed by Wesley Salmon and Phil Dowe—into a theory of causal models using Bayesian networks. We suggest that arcs in causal models must correspond to possible causal processes. Moreover, we suggest that when processes are rendered physically impossible by what occurs on distinct paths, the original model must be restricted by removing the relevant arc. These two techniques suffice to explain cases of late preëmption and other cases (...)
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  8. Richard Healey (2013). How Quantum Theory Helps Us Explain. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (1):axt031.
    I offer an account of how the quantum theory we have helps us explain so much. The account depends on a pragmatist interpretation of the theory: this takes a quantum state to serve as a source of sound advice to physically situated agents on the content and appropriate degree of belief about matters concerning which they are currently inevitably ignorant. The general account of how to use quantum states and probabilities to explain otherwise puzzling regularities is then illustrated by showing (...)
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  9. Peter Hedström & Petri Ylikoski (2010). Causal Mechanisms in the Social Sciences. Annual Review of Sociology 36:49–67.
    During the past decade, social mechanisms and mechanism-based ex- planations have received considerable attention in the social sciences as well as in the philosophy of science. This article critically reviews the most important philosophical and social science contributions to the mechanism approach. The first part discusses the idea of mechanism- based explanation from the point of view of philosophy of science and relates it to causation and to the covering-law account of explanation. The second part focuses on how the idea (...)
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  10. M. C. W. Janssen & Y. -H. Tan (1991). Why Friedman's Non-Monotonic Reasoning Defies Hempel's Covering Law Model. Synthese 86 (2):255 - 284.
    In this paper we will show that Hempel's covering law model can't deal very well with explanations that are based on incomplete knowledge. In particular the symmetry thesis, which is an important aspect of the covering law model, turns out to be problematic for these explanations. We will discuss an example of an electric circuit, which clearly indicates that the symmetry of explanation and prediction does not always hold. It will be argued that an alternative logic for causal explanation is (...)
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  11. Monte Ransome Johnson (2009). The Aristotelian Explanation of the Halo. Apeiron 42 (4):325-357.
    For an Aristotelian observer, the halo is a puzzling phenomenon since it is apparently sublunary, and yet perfectly circular. This paper studies Aristotle's explanation of the halo in Meteorology III 2-3 as an optical illusion, as opposed to a substantial thing (like a cloud), as was thought by his predecessors and even many successors. Aristotle's explanation follows the method of explanation of the Posterior Analytics for "subordinate" or "mixed" mathematical-physical sciences. The accompanying diagram described by Aristotle is one of the (...)
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  12. Kareem Khalifa (2011). Contrastive Explanations as Social Accounts. Social Epistemology 24 (4):263-284.
    Explanatory contrastivists hold that we often explain phenomena of the form p rather than q. In this paper, I present a new, social‐epistemological model of contrastive explanation—accountabilism. Specifically, my view is inspired by social‐scientific research that treats explanations fundamentally as accounts; that is, communicative actions that restore one's social status when charged with questionable behaviour. After developing this model, I show how accountabilism provides a more comprehensive model of contrastive explanation than the causal models of contrastive explanation that are currently (...)
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  13. Harold Kincaid (2004). Contextualism, Explanation and the Social Sciences. Philosophical Explorations 7 (3):201 – 218.
    Debates about explanation in the social sciences often proceed without any clear idea what an 'account' of explanation should do. In this paper I take a stance - what I will call contextualism - that denies there are purely formal and conceptual constraints on explanation and takes standards of explanation to be substantive empirical claims, paradigmatically claims about causation. I then use this standpoint to argue for position on issues in the philosophy of social science concerning reduction, idealized models, social (...)
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  14. Jeff Kochan (2010). Contrastive Explanation and the 'Strong Programme' in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge. Social Studies of Science 40 (1):127-44.
    In this essay, I address a novel criticism recently levelled at the Strong Programme by Nick Tosh and Tim Lewens. Tosh and Lewens paint Strong Programme theorists as trading on a contrastive form of explanation. With this, they throw valuable new light on the explanatory methods employed by the Strong Programme. However, as I shall argue, Tosh and Lewens run into trouble when they accuse Strong Programme theorists of unduly restricting the contrast space in which legitimate historical and sociological explanations (...)
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  15. Jaakko Kuorikoski & Petri Ylikoski (2013). How Organization Explains. In Vassilios Karakostas & Dennis Dieks (eds.), Epsa11 Perspectives and Foundational Problems in Philosophy of Science. Springer. 69--80.
  16. James Ladyman (2003). Stathis Psillos,Causation and Explanation. Chesham: Acumen, 2002. [REVIEW] Metascience 12 (3):431-434.
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  17. Marc Lange (2012). Abstraction and Depth in Scientific Explanation. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2):483-491.
  18. Arnon Levy (2014). Machine-Likeness and Explanation by Decomposition. Philosophers' Imprint 14 (6).
    Analogies to machines are commonplace in the life sciences, especially in cellular and molecular biology — they shape conceptions of phenomena and expectations about how they are to be explained. This paper offers a framework for thinking about such analogies. The guiding idea is that machine-like systems are especially amenable to decompositional explanation, i.e., to analyses that tease apart underlying components and attend to their structural features and interrelations. I argue that for decomposition to succeed a system must exhibit causal (...)
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  19. Arnon Levy & William Bechtel (2013). Abstraction and the Organization of Mechanisms. Philosophy of Science 80 (2):241-261.
  20. David Lewis (1986). Causal Explanation. In , Philosophical Papers Vol. Ii. Oxford University Press. 214-240.
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  21. David Lewis (1986). Philosophical Papers Vol. II. Oxford University Press.
  22. Lennart Nordenfelt & B. Ingemar B. Lindahl (eds.) (1984). Health, Disease, and Causal Explanations in Medicine. Reidel.
  23. Robert Northcott (2013). Degree of Explanation. Synthese 190 (15):3087-3105.
    Partial explanations are everywhere. That is, explanations citing causes that explain some but not all of an effect are ubiquitous across science, and these in turn rely on the notion of degree of explanation. I argue that current accounts are seriously deficient. In particular, they do not incorporate adequately the way in which a cause’s explanatory importance varies with choice of explanandum. Using influential recent contrastive theories, I develop quantitative definitions that remedy this lacuna, and relate it to existing measures (...)
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  24. Garrett Pendergraft (2011). In Defense of a Causal Requirement on Explanation. In Phyllis McKay Illari Federica Russo (ed.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press. 470.
    Causalists about explanation claim that to explain an event is to provide information about the causal history of that event. Some causalists also endorse a proportionality claim, namely that one explanation is better than another insofar as it provides a greater amount of causal information. In this chapter I consider various challenges to these causalist claims. There is a common and influential formulation of the causalist requirement – the ‘Causal Process Requirement’ – that does appear vulnerable to these anti-causalist challenges, (...)
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  25. Joseph C. Pitt (ed.) (1988). Theories of Explanation. Oxford University Press.
    Since the publication of Carl Hempel and Paul Oppenheim's ground-breaking work "Studies in the Logic of Explanation," the theory of explanation has remained a major topic in the philosophy of science. This valuable collection provides readers with the opportunity to study some of the classic essays on the theory of explanation along with the best examples of the most recent work being done on the topic. In addition to the original Hempel and Oppenheim paper, the volume includes Scriven's critical reaction (...)
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  26. Angela Potochnik (2015). Causal Patterns and Adequate Explanations. Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1163-1182.
    Causal accounts of scientific explanation are currently broadly accepted (though not universally so). My first task in this paper is to show that, even for a causal approach to explanation, significant features of explanatory practice are not determined by settling how causal facts bear on the phenomenon to be explained. I then develop a broadly causal approach to explanation that accounts for the additional features that I argue an explanation should have. This approach to explanation makes sense of several aspects (...)
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  27. Angela Potochnik (2011). Explanation and Understanding. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1 (1):29-38.
    Michael Strevens offers an account of causal explanation according to which explanatory practice is shaped by counterbalanced commitments to representing causal influence and abstracting away from overly specific details. In this paper, I challenge a key feature of that account. I argue that what Strevens calls explanatory frameworks figure prominently in explanatory practice because they actually improve explanations. This suggestion is simple but has far-reaching implications. It affects the status of explanations that cite multiply realizable properties; changes the explanatory role (...)
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