Explaining Brute Facts

I aim to show that one way of testing the mettle of a theory of scientific explanation is to inquire what that theory entails about the status of brute facts. Here I consider the nature of brute facts, and survey several contemporary accounts of explanation vis a vis this subject (the Friedman-Kitcher theory of explanatory unification, Humphreys' causal theory of explanation, and Lipton's notion of 'explanatory loveliness'). One problem with these accounts is that they seem to entail that brute facts represent a gap in scientific understanding. I argue that brute facts are non-mysterious and indeed are even explainable by the lights of Salmon's ontic conception of explanation (which I endorse here). The plausibility of various models of explanation, I suggest, depends to some extent on the tendency of their proponents to focus on certain examples of explananda - I ponder brute facts qua explananda here as a way of helping us to recognize this dependency.
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