A pragmatist defense of non-relativistic explanatory pluralism in history and social science

History and Theory 47 (2):168–182 (2008)
Explanatory pluralism has been defended by several philosophers of history and social science, recently, for example, by Tor Egil Førland in this journal. In this article, we provide a better argument for explanatory pluralism, based on the pragmatist idea of epistemic interests. Second, we show that there are three quite different senses in which one can be an explanatory pluralist: one can be a pluralist about questions, a pluralist about answers to questions, and a pluralist about both. We defend the last position. Finally, our third aim is to argue that pluralism should not be equated with “anything goes”: we will argue for non-relativistic explanatory pluralism. This pluralism will be illustrated by examples from history and social science in which different forms of explanation (for example, structural, functional, and intentional explanations) are discussed, and the fruitfulness of our framework for understanding explanatory pluralism is shown.
Keywords scientific explanation  pluralism  explanation-seeking questions  erotetic model of explanations
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References found in this work BETA
Jeroen van Bouwel & Erik Weber (2002). Remote Causes, Bad Explanations? Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 32 (4):437–449.
Citations of this work BETA
Jan De Winter (2011). A Pragmatic Account of Mechanistic Artifact Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (4):602-609.

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Jeroen Van Bouwel (2008). Explanatory Pluralism. In Edward Fullbrook (ed.), Pluralist Economics. Distributed in the Usa Exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.
Erik Weber & Jeroen Van Bouwel (2009). Causation, Unification, and the Adequacy of Explanations of Facts. Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science 24 (3):301-320.

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