Statistical Explanations

The purpose of this paper is to provide a systematic appraisal of the covering law and statistical relevance theories of statistical explanation advanced by Carl G. Hempel and by Wesley C. Salmon, respectively. The analysis is intended to show that the difference between these accounts is inprinciple analogous to the distinction between truth and confirmation, where Hempel's analysis applies to what is taken to be the case and Salmon's analysis applies to what is the case. Specifically, it is argued (a) that statistical explanations exhibit the nomic expectability of their explanandum events, which in some cases may be strong but in other cases will not be; (b) that the statistical relevance criterion is more fundamental than the requirement of maximal specificity and should therefore displace it; and, (c) that if statistical explanations are to be envisioned as inductive arguments at all, then only in a qualified sense since, in particular, the requirement of high inductive probability between explanans and explanandum must be abandoned.
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Hugh Lehman (1972). Statistical Explanation. Philosophy of Science 39 (4):500-506.
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