Contrastive explanation and causal triangulation

Philosophy of Science 58 (4):687-697 (1991)
Abstract
Alan Garfinkel (1981) and Bas van Fraassen (1980), among others, have proposed a contrastive theory of explanation, according to which the proper form of an explanatory why-question is not simply "Why P?" but "Why P rather than Q?". Dennis Temple (1988) has argued in this journal that the contrastive explanandum "P rather than Q" is equivalent to the conjunction, "P and not-Q". I show that the contrast is not equivalent to the conjunction, nor to other plausible noncontrastive candidates. I then consider David Lewis's (1986) proposal for the way contrasts determine an explanatory cause, which does not require recasting the contrastive explanandum. Lewis's proposal is found to be unacceptable, but it suggests an improvement that shows contrastive explanations to employ a mechanism of "causal triangulation", similar to Mill's method of difference.
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