Explanation and understanding

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 of causal factors with small effect; and undermines Strevens’ titular explanatory virtue, depth. This results in greater coherence with explanatory practice and accords with the emphasis that Strevens places on explanatory patterns. Ultimately, my suggestion preserves a tight connection between explanation and the creation of understanding by taking into account explanations’ role in communication
Keywords Causal explanation  Kairetic account  Multiple realizability  Causal patterns  Communication
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DOI 10.1007/s13194-010-0002-6
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References found in this work BETA
Phil Dowe (2000). Physical Causation. Cambridge University Press.
David Lewis (1973). Causation. Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.

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Citations of this work BETA
Angela Potochnik (forthcoming). The Diverse Aims of Science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A.
Brad Weslake (2013). Proportionality, Contrast and Explanation. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):785-797.

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Similar books and articles
K. Khalifa (2013). The Role of Explanation in Understanding. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):161-187.
Michael Strevens (2013). No Understanding Without Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):510-515.
Douglas Walton (2004). A New Dialectical Theory of Explanation. Philosophical Explorations 7 (1):71 – 89.
Peter Lipton (2001). What Good Is an Explanation? In G. Hon & S. Rakover (eds.), Explanation. Springer Netherlands 43-59.

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