Why explanation and thus coherence cannot be reduced to probability

Analysis 71 (2):264-266 (2011)
Some philosophers, most notably Hempel and Salmon, have tried to reduce explanation to probability by proposing analyses of explanation in probabilistic terms. Hempel claims, roughly, that a hypothesis H explains a datum D if and only if the conditional probability P is close to 1. It is well known that such an account fails in cases where H is irrelevant for D. Even though it is highly likely that Tom will not become pregnant, given that he regularly takes his wife’s birth control pills, the latter does not explain the former. Neither does an idea work which is in the proximity of Salmon’s, namely, that H explains D if and only if P > P. Suppose Susan swallows a pound of arsenic in order to commit suicide. Shortly after, however, she dies because she is run over by a bus. The probability of dying, given that one ingests a pound of arsenic, is usually higher than the prior probability of dying. Nonetheless, it is not the arsenic but the collision with the bus which explains Susan’s death. The aforementioned objections are directed against …
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Gregory Wheeler & Richard Scheines (2011). Causation, Association and Confirmation. In Stephan Hartmann, Marcel Weber, Wenceslao Gonzalez, Dennis Dieks & Thomas Uebe (eds.), Explanation, Prediction, and Confirmation: New Trends and Old Ones Reconsidered. Springer 37--51.

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