The covering law model of historical explanation

Inquiry 11 (1-4):368 – 387 (1968)
Abstract
It is often argued (as by Hempel and Nagel) that genuine historical explanations — if these are to be had — must exhibit a connection between events to be explained and universal or probabilistic laws (or 'hypotheses'). This connection may take either a 'strong' or 'weak' form. The historian may show that a statement of the event to be explained is a logical consequence of statements of reasonably well-confirmed universal laws and occurrences linked by the laws to the event to be explained. Or the historian may show that a statement of the event to be explained has high inductive probability conferred upon it given statements of reasonably well-confirmed probabilistic laws and occurrences so linked by the laws to the type of event to be explained that one finds the occurrence of the particular event likely. This essay focuses on 'strong' explanations which meet a 'deducibility' requirement (for reasons given in the body of the article). It is argued that explanations in history (at least where it is plausible to construe them as 'non-rational') may meet a 'deducibility' requirement and count as genuine historical explanations although they do not meet a 'covering law' requirement (i. e. none of the premises of these explanations state universal or probabilistic hypotheses). It is required, however, that at least one premise in such explanations assert a reasonably well-confirmed condition (e. g., a co-variation) which can be taken as a sign or indication of the presence of laws. Rather than appealing to laws, the historian may appeal to the well-founded possibility of laws.
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References found in this work BETA
Michael Scriven (1963). New Issues in the Logic of Explanation. In Sidney Hook (ed.), Philosophy and History. [New York]New York University Press.
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