David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (2):197-254 (2000)
This paper describes an alternative to the common view that explanation in the special sciences involves subsumption under laws. According to this alternative, whether or not a generalization can be used to explain has to do with whether it is invariant rather than with whether it is lawful. A generalization is invariant if it is stable or robust in the sense that it would continue to hold under a relevant if it is stable or robust in the sense that it would continue to hold under a relevant class of changes. Unlike lawfulness, invariance comes in degrees and has other features that are well suited to capture the characteristics of explanatory generalizations in the special sciences. For example, a generalization can be invariant even if it has exceptions or holds only over a limited spatio-temporal interval. The notion of invariance can be used to resolve a number of dilemmas that arise in standard treatments of explanatory generalizations in the special sciences.
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Citations of this work BETA
Stuart Glennan (2002). Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
Jim Woodward (2002). What is a Mechanism? A Counterfactual Account. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S366-S377.
Stuart Glennan (2005). Modeling Mechanisms. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 36 (2):443-464.
James Woodward & Christopher Hitchcock (2003). Explanatory Generalizations, Part I: A Counterfactual Account. Noûs 37 (1):1–24.
Robert A. Skipper & Roberta L. Millstein (2005). Thinking About Evolutionary Mechanisms: Natural Selection. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):327-347.
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