Mathematical explanation and the theory of why-questions

Van Fraassen and others have urged that judgements of explanations are relative to why-questions; explanations should be considered good in so far as they effectively answer why-questions. In this paper, I evaluate van Fraassen's theory with respect to mathematical explanation. I show that his theory cannot recognize any proofs as explanatory. I also present an example that contradicts the main thesis of the why-question approach—an explanation that appears explanatory despite its inability to answer the why-question that motivated it. This example shows how explanatory judgements can be context-dependent without being why-question-relative.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/49.4.603
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Carlo Cellucci (2008). The Nature of Mathematical Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 39 (2):202-210.
Carlo Cellucci (2008). The Nature of Mathematical Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (2):202-210.
Alexander Paseau (2011). Proofs of the Compactness Theorem. History and Philosophy of Logic 31 (1):73-98.

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