Is conceptual analysis required for reductive explanation? If there is no a priori entailment from microphysical truths to phenomenal truths, does reductive explanation of the phenomenal fail? We say yes (Chalmers 1996; Jackson 1994, 1998). Ned Block and Robert Stalnaker say no (Block and Stalnaker 1999).
Moral philosophers are, among other things, in the business of constructing moral theories. And moral theories are, among other things, supposed to explain moral phenomena. Consequently, one’s views about the nature of moral explanation will influence the kinds of moral theories one is willing to countenance. Many moral philosophers are (explicitly or implicitly) committed to a deductive model of explanation. As I see it, this commitment lies at the heart of the current debate between moral particularists and moral (...) generalists. In this paper I argue that we have good reasons to give up this commitment. In fact, I show that an examination of the literature on scientific explanation reveals that we are used to, and comfortable with, non-deductive explanations in almost all areas of inquiry. As a result, I argue that we have reason to believe that moral explanations need not be grounded in exceptionless moral principles. (shrink)
Due to the wide array of phenomena that are of interest to them, psychologists offer highly diverse and heterogeneous types of explanations. Initially, this suggests that the question "What is psychological explanation?" has no single answer. To provide appreciation of this diversity, we begin by noting some of the more common types of explanations that psychologists provide, with particular focus on classical examples of explanations advanced in three different areas of psychology: psychophysics, physiological psychology, and information-processing psychology. To analyze (...) what is involved in these types of explanations, we consider the ways in which law-like representations of regularities and representations of mechanisms factor in psychological explanations. This consideration directs us to certain fundamental questions, e.g., "To what extent are laws necessary for psychological explanations?" and "What do psychologists have in mind when they appeal to mechanisms in explanation?" In answering such questions, it appears that laws do play important roles in psychological explanations, although most explanations in psychology appeal to accounts of mechanisms. Consequently, we provide a unifying account of what psychological explanation is. (shrink)
As much as assumptions about mechanisms and mechanistic explanation have deeply affected psychology, they have received disproportionately little analysis in philosophy. After a historical survey of the influences of mechanistic approaches to explanation of psychological phenomena, we specify the nature of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. Contrary to some treatments of mechanistic explanation, we maintain that explanation is an epistemic activity that involves representing and reasoning about mechanisms. We discuss the manner in which mechanistic approaches serve (...) to bridge levels rather than reduce them, as well as the different ways in which mechanisms are discovered. Finally, we offer a more detailed example of an important psychological phenomenon for which mechanistic explanation has provided the main source of scientific understanding. (shrink)
I argue that there are Leibnizian-style cosmological arguments for the existence of God which start from very mild premises which affirm the mere possibility of a principle of sufficient reason. The utilization of such premises gives a great deal of plausibility to such types of argumentation. I spend the majority of the paper defending three major objections to such mild premises viz., a reductio argument from Peter van Inwagen and William Rowe, which proffers and defends the idea that a necessary (...) proposition cannot explain a contingent one. I, then, turn to an amelioration of the Rowe/van Inwagen argument which attempts to appeal to an entailment relation between explanans and explanandum that is fettered out in terms of relevance logic. Subsequent to dispelling with that worry, I tackle objections to the utilization of weak principles of sufficient reason that depend essentially upon agglomerative accounts of explanation. (shrink)
We provide an account of mechanistic representation and explanation that has several advantages over previous proposals. In our view, explaining mechanistically is not simply giving an explanation of a mechanism. Rather, an explanation is mechanistic because of particular relations that hold between a mechanical representation, or model, and the target of explanation. Under this interpretation, mechanistic explanation is possible even when the explanatory target is not a mechanism. We argue that taking this view is not (...) only coherent and plausible, it gives a more sophisticated view of the relationship between mechanical models and their targets. This allows us to address some ambiguities within the mechanist framework, and delivers a more intuitive way to interpret scientists' use of the term "mechanism". (shrink)
How do we go about weighing evidence, testing hypotheses, and making inferences? The model of "inference to the best explanation" (IBE) -- that we infer the hypothesis that would, if correct, provide the best explanation of the available evidence--offers a compelling account of inferences both in science and in ordinary life. Widely cited by epistemologists and philosophers of science, IBE has nonetheless remained little more than a slogan. Now this influential work has been thoroughly revised and updated, and (...) features a new introduction and two new chapters. Inference to the Best Explanation is an unrivaled exposition of a theory of particular interest in the fields both of epistemology and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
This paper examines a paradigm case of allegedly successful reductive explanation, viz. the explanation of the fact that water boils at 100°C based on facts about H2O. The case figures prominently in Joseph Levine’s explanatory gap argument against physicalism. The paper studies the way the argument evolved in the writings of Levine, focusing especially on the question how the reductive explanation of boiling water figures in the argument. It will turn out that there are two versions of (...) the explanatory gap argument to be found in Levine’s writings. The earlier version relies heavily on conceptual analysis and construes reductive explanation as a process of deduction. The later version makes do without conceptual analysis and understands reductive explanations as based on theoretic reductions that are justified by explanatory power. Along the way will be shown that the bridge principles — which are being neglected in the explanatory gap literature — play a crucial role in the explanatory gap argument. (shrink)
Mechanistic explanation has an impressive track record of advancing our understanding of complex, hierarchically organized physical systems, particularly biological and neural systems. But not every complex system can be understood mechanistically. Psychological capacities are often understood by providing cognitive models of the systems that underlie them. I argue that these models, while superficially similar to mechanistic models, in fact have a substantially more complex relation to the real underlying system. They are typically constructed using a range of techniques for (...) abstracting the functional properties of the system, which may not coincide with its mechanistic organization. I describe these techniques and show that despite being non-mechanistic, these cognitive models can satisfy the normative constraints on good explanations. (shrink)
This paper argues that the form of explanation at issue in the hard problem of consciousness is scientifically irrelevant, despite appearances to the contrary. In particular, it is argued that the 'sense of understanding' that plays a critical role in the form of explanation implicated in the hard problem provides neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition on satisfactory scientific explanation. Considerations of the actual tools and methods available to scientists are used to make the case against (...) it being a necessary condition, and work by J.D. Trout that exploits psychological research on the hindsight and overconfidence biases is used to show that it is not a sufficient condition. It is argued, however, that certain intellectual and moral concerns give us good reason to still try to meet the hard problem's explanatory challenge, despite its extrascientific nature. (shrink)
How regular do mechanisms need to be, in order to count as mechanisms? This paper addresses two arguments for dropping the requirement of regularity from the definition of a mechanism, one motivated by examples from the sciences and the other motivated by metaphysical considerations regarding causation. I defend a broadened regularity requirement on mechanisms that takes the form of a taxonomy of kinds of regularity that mechanisms may exhibit. This taxonomy allows precise explication of the degree and location of regular (...) operation within a mechanism, and highlights the role that various kinds of regularity play in scientific explanation. I defend this regularity requirement in terms of regularity’s role in individuating mechanisms against a background of other causal processes, and by prioritizing mechanisms’ ability to serve as a model of scientific explanation, rather than as a metaphysical account of causation. It is because mechanisms are regular, in the expanded sense described here, that they are capable of supporting the kinds of generalizations that figure prominently in scientific explanations. (shrink)
Wesley Salmon is renowned for his seminal contributions to the philosophy of science. He has powerfully and permanently shaped discussion of such issues as lawlike and probabilistic explanation and the interrelation of explanatory notions to causal notions. This unique volume brings together twenty-six of his essays on subjects related to causality and explanation, written over the period 1971-1995. Six of the essays have never been published before and many others have only appeared in obscure venues. The volume includes (...) a section of accessible introductory pieces, as well as more advanced and technical pieces, and will make essential work in the philosophy of science readily available to both scholars and students. (shrink)
Woodward's long awaited book is an attempt to construct a comprehensive account of causation explanation that applies to a wide variety of causal and explanatory claims in different areas of science and everyday life. The book engages some of the relevant literature from other disciplines, as Woodward weaves together examples, counterexamples, criticisms, defenses, objections, and replies into a convincing defense of the core of his theory, which is that we can analyze causation by appeal to the notion of manipulation.
Cognitive neuropsychiatry (CN) is the explanation of psychiatric disorder by the methods of cognitive neuropsychology. Within CN there are, broadly speaking, two approaches to delusion. The first uses a one-stage model, in which delusions are explained as rationalizations of anomalous experiences via reasoning strategies that are not, in themselves, abnormal. Two-stage models invoke additional hypotheses about abnormalities of reasoning. In this paper, I examine what appears to be a very strong argument, developed within CN, in favor of a twostage (...)explanation of the difference in content between the Capgras and Cotard delusions. That explanation treats them as alternative rationalizations of essentially the same phenomenology. I show, however, that once we distinguish the phenomenology (and the neuroetiology), a one-stage model is adequate. In the final section I make some more general remarks on the oneand two-stage models. (shrink)
The received view of dynamical explanation is that dynamical cognitive science seeks to provide covering law explanations of cognitive phenomena. By analyzing three prominent examples of dynamicist research, I show that the received view is misleading: some dynamical explanations are mechanistic explanations, and in this way resemble computational and connectionist explanations. Interestingly, these dynamical explanations invoke the mathematical framework of dynamical systems theory to describe mechanisms far more complex and distributed than the ones typically considered by philosophers. Therefore, contemporary (...) dynamicist research reveals the need for a more sophisticated account of mechanistic explanation. (shrink)
Approaches to explanation -- Causal and explanatory relevance -- The kairetic account of /D making -- The kairetic account of explanation -- Extending the kairetic account -- Event explanation and causal claims -- Regularity explanation -- Abstraction in regularity explanation -- Approaches to probabilistic explanation -- Kairetic explanation of frequencies -- Kairetic explanation of single outcomes -- Looking outward -- Looking inward.
Arguing for mathematical realism on the basis of Field’s explanationist version of the Quine–Putnam Indispensability argument, Alan Baker has recently claimed to have found an instance of a genuine mathematical explanation of a physical phenomenon. While I agree that Baker presents a very interesting example in which mathematics plays an essential explanatory role, I show that this example, and the argument built upon it, begs the question against the mathematical nominalist.
Psychoneural reductionists sometimes claim that sufficient amounts of lower-level explanatory achievement preclude further contributions from higher-level psychological research. Ostensibly, with nothing left to do, the effect of such preclusion on psychological explanation is extinction. Reductionist arguments for preclusion have recently involved a reorientation within the philosophical foundations of neuroscience---namely, away from the philosophical foundations and toward the neuroscience. In this chapter, I review a successful reductive explanation of an aspect of reward function in terms of dopaminergic operations of (...) the mesocorticolimbic system in order to demonstrate why preclusion/extinction claims are dubious. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to examine the usefulness of the Machamer, Darden, and Craver (2000) mechanism approach to gaining an understanding of explanation in cognitive neuroscience. We argue that although the mechanism approach can capture many aspects of explanation in cognitive neuroscience, it cannot capture everything. In particular, it cannot completely capture all aspects of the content and significance of mental representations or the evaluative features constitutive of psychopathology.
It has often been argued that Humean accounts of natural law cannot account for the role played by laws in scientific explanations. Loewer (Philosophical Studies 2012) has offered a new reply to this argument on behalf of Humean accounts—a reply that distinguishes between grounding (which Loewer portrays as underwriting a kind of metaphysical explanation) and scientific explanation. I will argue that Loewer’s reply fails because it cannot accommodate the relation between metaphysical and scientific explanation. This relation also (...) resolves a puzzle about scientific explanation that Hempel and Oppenheim (Philosophy of Science 15:135–75, 1948) encountered. (shrink)
Although in the past three decades interest in mathematical explanation revived, recent literature on the subject seems to neglect the strict connection between explanation and discovery. In this paper I sketch an alternative approach that takes such connection into account. My approach is a revised version of one originally considered by Descartes. The main difference is that my approach is in terms of the analytic method, which is a method of discovery prior to axiomatized mathematics, whereas Descartes’s approach (...) is in terms of the analytic-synthetic method, which is a heuristic pattern in already axiomatized mathematics. (shrink)
Any position that promises genuine progress on the mind-body problem deserves attention. Recently, Daniel Stoljar has identified a physicalist version of Russells notion of neutral monism; he elegantly argues that with this type of physicalism it is possible to disambiguate on the notion of physicalism in such a way that the problem is resolved. The further issue then arises of whether we have reason to believe that this type of physicalism is in fact true. Ultimately, one needs to argue for (...) this position by inference to the best explanation, and I show that this new type of physicalism does not hold promise of more explanatory prowess than its relevant rivals, and that, whether it is better than its rivals or not, it is doubtful whether it would furnish us with genuine explanations of the phenomenal at all. (shrink)
In this essay, I address a novel criticism recently levelled at the Strong Programme by Nick Tosh and Tim Lewens. Tosh and Lewens paint Strong Programme theorists as trading on a contrastive form of explanation. With this, they throw valuable new light on the explanatory methods employed by the Strong Programme. However, as I shall argue, Tosh and Lewens run into trouble when they accuse Strong Programme theorists of unduly restricting the contrast space in which legitimate historical and sociological (...) explanations of scientific knowledge might be given. Their attack founders as a result of their failure to properly understand the overall methodological concerns of Strong Programme theorists. After introducing readers to the technique of contrastive explanation and correcting the errors in Tosh and Lewens’ interpretation of the Strong Programme, I argue that it is, in fact, Tosh and Lewens’ own commitment to scientific realism which places an unacceptable restriction on the explanatory space open to historians and sociologists of science. The happy ending is that the Strong Programme provides more freedom for analysis than does scientific realism, and that careful attention to the methodological benefits of contrastive explanation can help lighten the burden on historians and sociologists of science as they go about their explanatory business. (shrink)
I focus on two claims that have been made about the relationship between inference to the best explanation (IBE) and induction. The first is that IBE is an autonomous (indispensable) form of inference. The second claim is that induction is a special case of IBE. I adduce a new argument in support of the autonomy claim, use some insights thereby gleaned to argue for the reductionist claim, and draw some normative conclusions.
According to some philosophers, computational explanation is proprietary to psychology—it does not belong in neuroscience. But neuroscientists routinely offer computational explanations of cognitive phenomena. In fact, computational explanation was initially imported from computability theory into the science of mind by neuroscientists, who justified this move on neurophysiological grounds. Establishing the legitimacy and importance of computational explanation in neuroscience is one thing; shedding light on it is another. I raise some philosophical questions pertaining to computational explanation and outline (...) some promising answers that are being developed by a number of authors. (shrink)
Alan Millar examines our understanding of why people think and act as they do. His key theme is that normative considerations form an indispensable part of the explanatory framework in terms of which we seek to understand each other. Millar defends a conception according to which normativity is linked to reasons. On this basis he examines the structure of certain normative commitments incurred by having propositional attitudes. Controversially, he argues that ascriptions of beliefs and intentions in and of themselves attribute (...) normative commitments and that this has implications for the psychology of believing and intending. Indeed, all propositional attitudes of the sort we ascribe to people have a normative dimension, since possessing the concepts that the attitudes implicate is of its very nature commitment-incurring. The ramifications of these views for our understanding of people is explored. Millar offers illuminating discussions of reasons for belief and reasons for action; the explanation of beliefs and actions in terms of the subject's reasons; the idea that simulation has a key role in understanding people; and the limits of explanation in terms of propositional attitudes. He compares and contrasts the commitments incurred by propositional attitudes with those incurred by participating in practices, arguing that the former should not be assimilated to the latter. Understanding People will be of great interest to most philosophers of mind, as well as to those working on practical and theoretical reasoning. (shrink)
Arguments from explanation, i.e. arguments in which the explanatory value of a hypothesis or premise is appealed to, are common in science, and explanatory considerations are becoming more popular in metaphysics. The paper begins by arguing that explanatory arguments in scienceâ€”even when these are metaphysical explanationsâ€”may fail to be explanatory in metaphysics; there is a distinction to be drawn between metaphysical explanation and explanation in metaphysics. This makes it potentially problematic to deploy arguments from explanation in, (...) for instance, metaphysics of science. Part of this problem has its source in that the explanatory concept differs between contexts. The paper discusses a few explanatory concepts and their corresponding arguments from explanation. Towards the end of the paper, I identify two allegedly explanatory arguments in metaphysical discourse by the concluding decisions they give rise to: the rejection of X as a metaphysical fact if X does not explain anything (the argument from explanatory inability) and the rejection of X as a metaphysical fact if X can be non-metaphysically explained (the argument from the non-metaphysically explained). I ask: What kind of concept of explanation do these arguments rely upon, and is that concept suited to the metaphysical task? Two recent examples of these arguments are used as illustration. The preliminary conclusion is that several of the strengths of arguments from explanation in science seem not to be present in metaphysical contexts. (shrink)
Until recently, the notions of function and multiple realization were supposed to save the autonomy of psychological explanations. Furthermore, the concept of supervenience presumably allows both dependence of mind on brain and non-reducibility of mind to brain, reconciling materialism with an independent explanatory role for mental and functional concepts and explanations. Eliminativism is often seen as the main or only alternative to such autonomy. It gladly accepts abandoning or thoroughly reconstructing the psychological level, and considers reduction if successful as equivalent (...) with elimination. In comparison with the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of biology has developed more subtle and complex ideas about functions, laws, and reductive explanation than the stark dichotomy of autonomy or elimination. It has been argued that biology is a patchwork of local laws, each with different explanatory interests and more or less limited scope. This points to a pluralistic, domain-specific and multi-level view of explanations in biology. Explanatory pluralism has been proposed as an alternative to eliminativism on the one hand and methodological dualism on the other hand. It holds that theories at different levels of description, like psychology and neuroscience, can co-evolve, and mutually influence each other, without the higher-level theory being replaced by, or reduced to, the lower-level one. Such ideas seem to tally with the pluralistic character of biological explanation. In biological psychology, explanatory pluralism would lead us to expect many local and non-reductive interactions between biological, neurophysiological, psychological and evolutionary explanations of mind and behavior. This idea is illustrated by an example from behavioral genetics, where genetics, physiology and psychology constitute distinct but interrelated levels of explanation. Accounting for such a complex patchwork of related explanations seems to require a more sophisticated and precise way of looking at levels than the existing ideas on (reductive and non-reductive) explanation in the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
In this paper, the relation between identity-based reduction and one specific sort of reductive explanation is considered. The notion of identity-based reduction is spelled out and its role in the reduction debate is sketched. An argument offered by Jaegwon Kim, which is supposed to show that identity-based reduction and reductive explanation are incompatible, is critically examined. From the discussion of this argument, some important consequences about the notion of reduction are pointed out.
Perhaps because both explanation and prediction are key components to understanding, philosophers and psychologists often portray these two abilities as though they arise from the same competence, and sometimes they are taken to be the same competence. When explanation and prediction are associated in this way, they are taken to be two expressions of a single cognitive capacity that differ from one another only pragmatically. If the difference between prediction and explanation of human behavior is merely pragmatic, (...) then anytime I predict someone’s future behavior, I would at that moment also have an explanation of the behavior. I argue that advocates of both the theory theory and the simulation theory accept the symmetry of psychological prediction and explanation. However, there is very good reason to believe that this hypothesis is false. Just as we can predict the occurrence of some physical phenomena that we have no explanation for, we are also able to make accurate predictions of intentional behavior without having an explanation. Rather than requiring mental state attribution, I argue that the prediction of human behavior is most often accomplished by statistical induction rather than through an appeal to mental states. However, explanations are not given in these terms. (shrink)
Abstract Non-reductive physicalism is currently the most widely held metaphysic of mind. My aim in this essay is to show that supervenience physicalism?perhaps the most common form of non-reductive physicalism?is not a defensible position. I argue that, in order for any supervenience thesis to ground a legitimate form of physicalism, it must yield the right sort of determination relation between physical and non-physical properties. Then I argue that non-reductionism leaves one without any explanation for the laws that are implied (...) by supervenience theses that deliver this determination relation. (shrink)
The ontic conception of scientific explanation has been constructed and motivated on the basis of a putative lexical ambiguity in the term explanation. I raise a puzzle for this ambiguity claim, and then give a deflationary solution under which all ontically-rendered talk of explanation is merely elliptical; what it is elliptical for is a view of scientific explanation that altogether avoids the ontic conception. This result has revisionary consequences for New Mechanists and other philosophers of science, (...) many of whom have assimilated their conception of explanation to the ontic conception. (shrink)
This paper evaluates Kuipers' account of functional explanation in biology in view of an example of such an explanation taken from real biology. The example is the explanation of why electric fishes swim backwards (Lannoo and Lannoo 1993). Kuipers' account depicts the answer to a request for functional explanation as consisting only of statements that articulate a certain kind of consequence. It is argued that such an account fails to do justice to the main insight provided (...) by the example explanation, namely the insight into why backwards swimming is needed by fishes that locate their food by means of an electric radar. The paper sketches an improved account that does justice to this kind of insight. It is argued that this account is consistent with and complementary to Kuipers' insight that function attributions are established by means of a process of hypothetico-deductive reasoning guided by a heuristic principle. (shrink)
Instances of negative causation—preventions, omissions, and the like—have long created philosophical worries. In this paper, I argue that concerns about negative causation can be addressed in the context of causal explanation generally, and mechanistic explanation specifically. The gravest concern about negative causation is that it exacerbates the problem of causal promiscuity—that is, the problem that arises when a particular account of causation identifies too many causes for a particular effect. In the explanatory context, the problem of promiscuity can (...) be solved by characterizing the phenomenon to be explained as a contrast between two or more events or non-events. This contrastive strategy also can solve other problems that negative causation presents for the leading accounts of mechanistic explanation. Along the way, I argue that to be effective, accounts of causal explanation must incorporate negative causation. I also develop a taxonomy of negative causation and incorporate each variety of negative causation into the leading accounts of mechanistic explanation. (shrink)
Creatures that have different physical realizations than human beings may or may not be conscious. Ned Block’s ‘harder problem of consciousness’ is that naturalistic phenomenal realists have no conception of a rational ground for belief that they have or have not discovered consciousness in such a creature. Drawing on the notion of inference to the best explanation, it appears the arguments to these conclusions beg the question and ignore that explanation may be a guide to discovery. Thus, best (...)explanation can both validate an interpretation of the evidence and lead to the discovery of consciousness. (shrink)
This paper tries to get a grip on two seemingly conflicting intuitions about reductionism in quantum mechanics. On the one hand it is received wisdom that quantum mechanics puts an end to ‘reductionism’. Quantum-entanglement is responsible for such features of quantum mechanics as holism, the failure of supervenience and emergence. While I agree with these claims I will argue that it is only part of the story. Quantum mechanics provides us with thorough-going reductionist explanations. I will distinguish two kinds of (...) micro-explanation (or micro-‘reduction’). I will argue that even though quantum-entanglement provides an example for the failure of one kind of micro-explanation it does not affect the other. Contrary to a recent paper by Kronz and Tiehen I claim that the explanation of the dynamics of quantum mechanical systems is just as reductionist as it used to be in classical mechanics. (shrink)
Our lives, states of health, relationships, behavior, experiences of the natural world, and the technologies that shape our contemporary existence are subject to a superfluity of competing, multi-faceted and sometimes incompatible explanations. Widespread confusion about the nature of "explanation" and its scope and limits pervades popular exposition of the natural sciences, popular history and philosophy of science. This fascinating book explores the way explanations work, why they vary between disciplines, periods, and cultures, and whether they have any necessary boundaries. (...) In other words, Explanations aims to achieve a better understanding of explanation, both within the sciences and the humanities. It features contributions from expert writers from a wide range of disciplines, including science, philosophy, mathematics, and social anthropology. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that the insistence by Fodor et. al. that the Language of Thought hypothesis must be true rests on mistakes about the kinds of explanations that must be provided of cognitive phenomena. After examining the canonical arguments for the LOT, we identify a weak version of the LOT hypothesis which we think accounts for some of the intuitions that there must be a LOT. We then consider what kinds of explanation cognitive phenomena require, and conclude (...) that three main confusions lead to the invalid inference of the truth of a stronger LOT hypothesis from the weak and trivial version. These confusions concern the relationship between syntax and semantics, the nature of higher-level causation in cognitive science, and differing roles of explanations invoking intrinsic structures of minds on the one hand, and aetiological or evolutionary accounts of their properties on the other. (shrink)
This article generalizes the explanationist account of inference to the best explanation (IBE). It draws a clear distinction between IBE and abduction and presents abduction as the first step of IBE. The second step amounts to the evaluation of explanatory power, which consist in the degree of explanatory virtues that a hypothesis exhibits. Moreover, even though coherence is the most often cited explanatory virtue, on pain of circularity, it should not be treated as one of the explanatory virtues. Rather, (...) coherence should be equated with explanatory power and considered to be derivable from the other explanatory virtues: unification, explanatory depth and simplicity. (shrink)
This volume brings together a number of perspectives on the nature of realization explanation and experimentation in the ‘special’ and biological sciences as well as the related issues of psychoneural reduction and cognitive extension. The first two papers in the volume may be regarded as offering direct responses to the questions: (1) What model of realization is appropriate for understanding the metaphysics of science? and (2) What kind of philosophical work is such a model ultimately supposed to do?
To date, no satisfactory account of the connection between natural-scientific and historical explanation has been given, and philosophers seem to have largely given up on the problem. This paper is an attempt to resolve this old issue and to sort out and clarify some areas of historical explanation by developing and applying a method that will be called “pragmatic explication” involving the construction of definitions that are justified on pragmatic grounds. Explanations in general can be divided into “dynamic” (...) and “static” explanations, which are those that essentially require relations across time and those that do not, respectively. The problem of assimilating historical explanations concerns dynamic explanation, so a general analysis of dynamic explanation that captures both the structure of natural-scientific and historical explanation is offered. This is done in three stages: In the first stage, pragmatic explication is introduced and compared to other philosophical methods of explication. In the second stage pragmatic explication is used to tie together a series of definitions that are introduced in order to establish an account of explanation. This involves an investigation of the conditions that play the role in historiography that laws and statistical regularities play in the natural sciences. The essay argues that in the natural sciences, as well as in history, the model of explanation presented represents the aims and overarching structure of actual causal explanations offered in those disciplines. In the third stage the system arrived at in the preceding stage is filled in with conditions available to and relevant for historical inquiry. Further, the nature and treatment of causes in history and everyday life are explored and related to the system being proposed. This in turn makes room for a view connecting aspects of historical explanation and what we generally take to be causal relations. (shrink)
This paper introduces a new family of cases where agents are jointly morally responsible for outcomes over which they have no individual control, a family that resists standard ways of understanding outcome responsibility. First, the agents in these cases do not individually facilitate the outcomes and would not seem individually responsible for them if the other agents were replaced by non-agential causes. This undermines attempts to understand joint responsibility as overlapping individual responsibility; the responsibility in question is essentially joint. Second, (...) the agents involved in these cases are not aware of each other's existence and do not form a social group. This undermines attempts to understand joint responsibility in terms of actual or possible joint action or joint intentions, or in terms of other social ties. Instead, it is argued that intuitions about joint responsibility are best understood given the Explanation Hypothesis, according to which a group of agents are seen as jointly responsible for outcomes that are suitably explained by their motivational structures: something bad happened because they didn’t care enough; something good happened because their dedication was extraordinary. One important consequence of the proposed account is that responsibility for outcomes of collective action is a deeply normative matter. (shrink)
In this essay I defend a theory of psychological explanation that is based on the joint commitment to direct reference and computationalism. I offer a new solution to the problem of Frege Cases. Frege Cases involve agents who are unaware that certain expressions corefer (e.g. that 'Cicero' and 'Tully' corefer), where such knowledge is relevant to the success of their behavior, leading to cases in which the agents fail to behave as the intentional laws predict. It is generally agreed (...) that Frege Cases are a major problem, if not the major problem, that this sort of theory faces. In this essay, I hope to show that the theory can surmount the Frege Cases. (shrink)
I sketch an explanatory framework that fits a variety of contemporary research programs in cognitive science. I then investigate the scope and the implications of this framework. The framework emphasizes (a) the explanatory role played by the semantic content of cognitive representations, and (b) the important mechanistic, non-intentional dimension of cognitive explanations. I show how both of these features are present simultaneously in certain varieties of cognitive explanation. I also consider the explanatory role played by grounded representational content, that (...) is, content evaluated by appeal to its truth, falsity, accuracy, inaccuracy and other relational properties. (shrink)
The proper range and content of the unconscious in the human sciences should be established by reference to its conceptual relationship to the folk psychology that informs the standard form of explanation therein. A study of this relationship shows that human scientists should appeal to the unconscious only when the language of the conscious fails them, i.e. typically when they find a conflict between people's self-understanding and their actions. This study also shows that human scientists should adopt a broader (...) concept of the unconscious than the one developed by Freud, that is, one free from his ahistorical concept of the instincts and his ahistorical emphasis on the sexual experiences of childhood. The unconscious, understood in this way, has an ambiguous relationship to more recent linguistic and narrativist strands of psychoanalysis. (shrink)
Daniel Dennett (1996) has disputed David Chalmers' (1995) assertion that there is a "hard problem of consciousness" worth solving in the philosophy of mind. In this paper I defend Chalmers against Dennett on this point: I argue that there is a hard problem of consciousness, that it is distinct in kind from the so-called easy problems, and that it is vital for the sake of honest and productive research in the cognitive sciences to be clear about the difference. But I (...) have my own rebuke for Chalmers on the point of explanation. Chalmers (1995, 1996) proposes to "solve" the hard problem of consciousness by positing qualia as fundamental features of the universe, alongside such ontological basics as mass and space-time. But this is an inadequate solution: to posit, I will urge, is not to explain. To bolster this view, I borrow from an account of explanation by which it must provide "epistemic satisfaction" to be considered successful (Rowlands, 2001; Campbell, 2009), and show that Chalmers' proposal fails on this account. I conclude that research in the science of consciousness cannot move forward without greater conceptual clarity in the field. (shrink)
This paper focuses on two conflations which frequently appear within the philosophy of history and other fields concerned with action explanation. The first of these, which I call the Conflating View of Reasons, states that the reasons for which we perform actions are reasons why (those events which are) our actions occur. The second, more general conflation, which I call the Conflating View of Action Explanation, states that whatever explains why an agent performed a certain action explains why (...) (that event which was) her action occurred. Both conflations ignore the fact that there are at least two distinct objects that legitimately qualify as objects of action explanation2. As Jennifer Hornsby (1993) has previous suggested, one thing we might wish to explain is ‘why did A do what she did?’ another is, ‘why did the event of her doing it occur?’ -/- I shall argue that when these two views are combined they give rise to a futile debate about explanation in the philosophies of history and the social sciences, and to an almost identical debate in moral psychology and the philosophy of mind. In so doing, I shall also examine a proposed distinction between explaining a phenomenon, and rendering it intelligible. I conclude by distinguishing between four different objects of historical understanding, each of which is to be understood in the light of the aforementioned distinctions between event and thing done, and explanation and intelligibility. (shrink)
The complexity and heterogeneity of causes influencing ecology’s domain challenge its capacity to generate a general theory without exceptions, raising the question of whether ecology is capable, even in principle, of achieving the sort of theoretical success enjoyed by physics. Weber has argued that competition theory built around the Competitive Exclusion Principle (especially Tilman’s resource-competition model) offers an example of ecology identifying a law-like causal regularity. However, I suggest that as Weber presents it, the CEP is not yet a causal (...) regularity. Instead, I argue that the scientific understanding in Tilman’s theory takes a different form. The theory explains through a structure I call “channeling explanation” which does not depend on deduction from general laws, but rather builds on constraints and trade-offs represented in state-space. Recognizing this structure supports the more general point that ecology and other so-called special sciences can reveal novel theoretical approaches to philosophy of science when approached with openness to their uniqueness. (shrink)
The relation of teleological to causal explanations in psychology is examined. Nagel's claim that they are logically equivalent is rejected. Two arguments for their non-equivalence are considered: (i) the impossibility of specifying initial conditions in the case of teleological explanations and (ii) the claim that different kinds of logic are involved. The view that causal explanations provide only necessary conditions whereas teleological explanations provide sufficient conditions is rejected: causal explanations can provide sufficient conditions, typically being unable to provide necessary ones, (...) whereas teleological explanations tend to point to necessary features. Nor is a distinction in terms of intensional and extensional logic entirely satisfactory, although there is some support for the view that teleological and causal explanations invoke different types of explanatory framework. A key feature of teleogical explanation is the achievement of the same goal by a variety of means. Thus its main scientific function is likely to be heuristic rather than predictive. (shrink)
My purpose in this essay is to clarify the notion of explanation by computer simulation in artificial intelligence and cognitive science. My contention is that computer simulation may be understood as providing two different kinds of explanation, which makes the notion of explanation by computer simulation ambiguous. In order to show this, I shall draw a distinction between two possible ways of understanding the notion of simulation, depending on how one views the relation in which a computing (...) system that performs a cognitive task stands to the program that the system runs while performing that task. Next, I shall suggest that the kind of explanation that results from simulation is radically different in each case. In order to illustrate the difference, I will point out some prima facie methodological difficulties that need to be addressed in order to ensure that simulation plays a legitimate explanatory role in cognitive science, and I shall emphasize how those difficulties are very different depending on the notion of explanation involved. (shrink)
We introduce two notions–the shadows and the shallows of explanation–in opening up explanation to broader, interdisciplinary investigation. The shadows of explanation refer to past philosophical efforts to provide either a conceptual analysis of explanation or in some other way to pinpoint the essence of explanation. The shallows of explanation refer to the phenomenon of having surprisingly limited everyday, individual cognitive abilities when it comes to explanation. Explanations are ubiquitous, but they typically are not (...) accompanied by the depth that we might, prima facie, expect. We explain the existence of the shadows and shallows of explanation in terms of there being a theoretical abyss between explanation and richer, theoretical structures that are often attributed to people. We offer an account of the shallows, in particular, both in terms of shorn-down, internal, mental machinery, and in terms of an enriched, public symbolic environment, relative to the currently dominant ways of thinking about cognition and the world. (shrink)
Philosophers of mathematics commonly distinguish between explanatory and non-explanatory proofs. An important subclass of mathematical proofs are proofs by induction. Are they explanatory? This paper addresses the question, based on general principles about explanation. First, a recent argument for a negative answer is discussed and rebutted. Second, a case is made for a qualified positive take on the issue.
This article deals with a type of functional explanation, viability explanation, that has been overlooked in recent philosophy of science. Viability explanations relate traits of organisms and their environments in terms of what an individual needs to survive and reproduce. I show that viability explanations are neither causal nor historical and that, therefore, they should be accounted for as a distinct type of explanation.
R. J. Hankinson traces the history of ancient Greek thinking about causation and explanation, from its earliest beginnings through more than a thousand years to the middle of the first millennium of the Christian era. He examines ways in which the Ancient Greeks dealt with questions about how and why things happen as and when they do, about the basic constitution and structure of things, about function and purpose, laws of nature, chance, coincidence, and responsibility.
There is general agreement that from the first few months of life, our apprehension of physical objects accords, in some sense, with certain principles. In one philosopher's locution, we are 'perceptually sensitive' to physical principles describing the behavior of objects. But in what does this accordance or sensitivity consist? Are these principles explicitly represented or merely 'implemented'? And what sort of explanation do we accomplish in claiming that our object perception accords with these principles? My main goal here is (...) to suggest answers to these questions. I argue that the object principles are not explicitly represented, first addressing some confusion in the debate about what that means. On the positive side, I conclude that the principles supply a competence account, at Marr's computational level, and that they function like natural constraints in vision. These are among their considerable explanatory benefits - benefits endowed by rules and principles in other cognitive domains as well. Characterizing the explanatory role of the object principles is my main project here, but in pursuing certain sub-goals I am led to other conclusions of interest in their own right. I address an argument that the object principles are explicitly represented which assumes that object perception is substantially thought-like. This provokes a jaunt off the main path which leads to interesting territory: the boundary between thought and perception. I argue that object apprehension is much closer to perception than to thought on the spectrum between the two. (shrink)
Recently, several authors have argued that scientific understanding should be a new topic of philosophical research. In this article, I argue that the three most developed accounts of understanding--Grimm's, de Regt's, and de Regt and Dieks's--can be replaced by earlier accounts of scientific explanation without loss. Indeed, in some cases, such replacements have clear benefits.
This paper explores the explanatory adequacy of lower-level theories when their higher-level counterparts are irreducible. If some state or entity described by a high-level theory supervenes upon and is realized in events, entities, etc. described by the relevant lower-level theory, does the latter fully explain the higher-level event even if the higher-level theory is irreducible? While the autonomy of the special sciences and the success of various eliminativist programs depends in large part on how we answer this question, neither the (...) affirmative or negative answer has been defended in detail. I argue, contra Putnam and others, that certain facts about causation and explanation show that such lower-level theories do explain. I also argue, however, that there may be important questions about counterfactuals and laws that such explanations cannot answer, thereby showing their partial inadequacy. I defend the latter claim against criticisms based on eliminativism about higher-level explanations and sketch a number of empirical conditions that lower-level explanations would have to meet to fully explain higher-level events. (shrink)
This paper challenges arguments that systematic patterns of intelligent behavior license the claim that representations must play a role in the cognitive system analogous to that played by syntactical structures in a computer program. In place of traditional computational models, I argue that research inspired by Dynamical Systems theory can support an alternative view of representations. My suggestion is that we treat linguistic and representational structures as providing complex multi-dimensional targets for the development of individual brains. This approach acknowledges the (...) indispensability of the intentional or representational idiom in psychological explanation without locating representations in the brains of intelligent agents. (shrink)
This paper is a discussion of the tenability of methodological solipsism, which typically relies on the so-called Explanatory Thesis. The main arguments in the paper are directed against the latter thesis, according to which internal (or autonomous or narrow) psychological states as opposed to noninternal ones suffice for explanation in psychology. Especially, feedback-based actions are argued to require indispensable reference to noninternal explanantia, often to explanatory common causes. Thus, to the extent that methodological solipsism is taken to require the (...) truth of the Explanatory Thesis, it, too, can be regarded as untenable. (shrink)
In this article we criticize two recent articles that examinethe relation between explanation and unification. Halonen and Hintikka (1999), on the one hand,claim that no unification is explanation. Schurz (1999), on the other hand, claims that all explanationis unification. We give counterexamples to both claims. We propose a pluralistic approach to the problem:explanation sometimes consists in unification, but in other cases different kinds of explanation(e.g., causal explanation) are required; and none of these kinds is more (...) fundamental. (shrink)
The interventionist account of causal explanation, in the version presented by Jim Woodward (2003), has been recently claimed capable of buttressing the widely felt—though poorly understood—hunch that high-level, relatively abstract explanations, of the sort provided by sciences like biology, psychology and economics, are in some cases explanatorily optimal. It is the aim of this paper to show that this is mistaken. Due to a lack of effective constraints on the causal variables at the heart of the interventionist causal-explanatory scheme, (...) as presently formulated it is either unable to prefer high-level explanations to low, or systematically overshoots, recommending explanations at so high of a level as to be virtually vacuous. (shrink)
Many philosophers of science believe that empirical psychology can contribute little to the philosophical investigation of explanations. They take this to be shown by the fact that certain explanations fail to elicit any relevant psychological events (e.g., familiarity, insight, intelligibility, etc.). We report results from a study suggesting that, at least among those with extensive science training, a capacity to render an event intelligible is considered a requirement for explanation. We also investigate for whom explanations must be capable of (...) rendering events intelligible and whether or not accuracy is also viewed as a requirement. (shrink)
There has been a recent focused effort in philosophical scholarship to bridge the perceived divide between pragmatism and analytic philosophy. This divide, it has been suggested, is over philosophical doctrines, methods, and even aims. This is not to say there has not been fruitful—even if antagonistic—dialogue between these two philosophical traditions. Clearly there has been, e.g., Russell's famous (or infamous) disputes with James and Dewey. Clearly also, there has been direct philosophical influence from one tradition to the other, e.g., Peirce (...) and Dewey on Quine's naturalistic works. Nevertheless, all too often the seminal works of pragmatists, especially the classical "Big Three," have not been mined by analytic philosophers, e.g., Peirce's writings on vagueness or on reference. This neglect has been, I believe, to the detriment of analytic philosophy. I intend this paper to be one step in correcting this neglect by suggesting both that Peirce's take on (scientific) explanation is a corrective to the prevailing models of explanation and that these models supply (at least in part) fecund additions to Peirce's views. First I will lay out four contemporary models of... (shrink)
For an Aristotelian observer, the halo is a puzzling phenomenon since it is apparently sublunary, and yet perfectly circular. This paper studies Aristotle's explanation of the halo in Meteorology III 2-3 as an optical illusion, as opposed to a substantial thing (like a cloud), as was thought by his predecessors and even many successors. Aristotle's explanation follows the method of explanation of the Posterior Analytics for "subordinate" or "mixed" mathematical-physical sciences. The accompanying diagram described by Aristotle is (...) one of the earliest lettered geometrical diagrams, in particular of a terrestrial phenomenon, and versions of it can still be found in modern textbooks on meteorological optics. (shrink)
Analytic theories of knowledge have traditionally maintained that the provenance of a true belief is critically important to deciding whether it is knowledge. However, a comparably widespread view is that it is our beliefs alone, regardless of their (potentially dubious) provenance which feature in psychological explanation, including the explanation of action: thus, that knowledge itself and as such is irrelevant in psychological explanation. The paper gives initial reasons why the ‘beliefs alone’ view of explanation should be (...) resisted—arguments deriving ultimately from the Meno indicate that the provenance of a true belief may be relevant to the explanation of action. However, closer scrutiny of these arguments shows that they are incapable of according provenance anything like as central a role in action explanation as provenance has traditionally been given in the theory of knowledge. A consideration of the history of science suggests anyway that all knowledge has a compromised provenance if one looks back any significant distance. It is concluded that the importance of the provenance of our beliefs is something that has been seriously over-emphasised in epistemology. (shrink)
One thing about technical artefacts that needs to be explained is how their physical make-up, or structure, enables them to fulfil the behaviour associated with their function, or, more colloquially, how they work. In this paper I develop an account of such explanations based on the familiar notion of mechanistic explanation. To accomplish this, I (1) outline two explanatory strategies that provide two different types of insight into an artefact’s functioning, and (2) show how human action inevi- tably plays (...) a role in artefact explanation. I then use my own account to criticize other recent work on mechanistic explanation and conclude with some general implications for the philosophy of explanation. (shrink)
In this thesis I examine a number of topics that bear on explanation and understanding in molecular and cell biology, in order to shed new light on explanatory practice in those areas and to find novel angles from which to approach relevant philosophical debates. The topics I look at include mechanism, emergence, cellular complexity, and the informational role of the genome. I develop a perspective that stresses the intimacy of the relations between ontology and epistemology. Whether a phenomenon looks (...) mechanistic, or complex, or indeed emergent, is largely an epistemic matter, yet has an objective basis in features of the world. After reviewing several concepts of mechanism I consider the influential recent account of Machamer, Darden and Craver (MDC). That account makes interesting proposals concerning the relationship between mechanistic explanation and intelligibility, which are consistent with the results of the investigation I undertake into the science surrounding protein folding. In relation to a number of other issues pertaining to biological systems I conclude that the MDC account is insufficiently nuanced, however, leading me to outline an alternative approach to mechanism. This emphasizes the importance of structure—function relations and addresses issues raised by reflection on the nature of cellular complexity. These include the distinction between structure and process and the different possible bases on which system organization may be maintained. The account I give of emergence construes the phenomenon in terms of psychological deficit: phenomena are emergent when we lack the capacity to trace through and model their causal structures using our cognitive schemas. I conclude by developing these ideas into a preliminary and partial account of explanation and understanding. This aspires to cover the significant fraction of work in molecular and cell biology that correlates biological structures, processes and functions by visualizing phenomena and making them imaginable. (shrink)
In a recent book and an article, Carl Craver construes the relations between different levels of a mechanism, which he also refers to as constitutive relations, in terms of mutual manipulability (MM). Interpreted metaphysically, MM implies that inter-level relations are symmetrical. MM thus violates one of the main desiderata of scientific explanation, namely explanatory asymmetry. Parts of Craver’s writings suggest a metaphysical interpretation of MM, and Craver explicitly commits to constitutive relationships being symmetrical. The paper furthermore explores the option (...) of interpreting MM epistemologically, as a means for individuating mechanisms. It is argued that MM then is redundant. MM should therefore better be abandoned. (shrink)
The indispensability argument seeks to establish the existence of mathematical objects. The success of the indispensability argument turns on finding cases of genuine extra-mathematical explanation (the explanation of physical facts by mathematical facts). In this paper, I identify a new case of extra-mathematical explanation, involving the search patterns of fully-aquatic marine predators. I go on to use this case to predict the prevalence of extra-mathematical explanation in science.
Probabilistic phenomena are often perceived as being problematic targets for contrastive explanation. It is usually thought that the possibility of contrastive explanation hinges on whether or not the probabilistic behaviour is irreducibly indeterministic, and that the possible remaining contrastive explananda are token event probabilities or complete probability distributions over such token outcomes. This paper uses the invariance-under-interventions account of contrastive explanation to argue against both ideas. First, the problem of contrastive explanation also arises in cases in (...) which the probabilistic behaviour of the explanandum is due to unobserved causal heterogeneity. Second, it turns out that, in contrast to the case of pure indeterminism, the plausible contrastive explananda under causal heterogeneity are not token event probabilities, but population-level statistical facts. (shrink)
This article discusses how inference to the best explanation (IBE) can be justified as a practical meta-argument. It is, firstly, justified as a practical argument insofar as accepting the best explanation as true can be shown to further a specific aim. And because this aim is a discursive one which proponents can rationally pursue in—and relative to—a complex controversy, namely maximising the robustness of one’s position, IBE can be conceived, secondly, as a meta-argument. My analysis thus bears a (...) certain analogy to Sellars’ well-known justification of inductive reasoning (Sellars, In: Essays in honour of Carl G. Hempel, 1969); it is based on recently developed theories of complex argumentation (Betz, In: Theorie dialektischer Strukturen, 2010a). (shrink)
In this chapter, I argue that some aspects of cognitive phenomena cannot be explained computationally. In the first part, I sketch a mechanistic account of computational explanation that spans multiple levels of organization of cognitive systems. In the second part, I turn my attention to what cannot be explained about cognitive systems in this way. I argue that information-processing mechanisms are indispensable in explanations of cognitive phenomena, and this vindicates the computational explanation of cognition. At the same time, (...) it has to be supplemented with other explanations to make the mechanistic explanation complete, and that naturally leads to explanatory pluralism in cognitive science. The price to pay for pluralism, however, is the abandonment of the traditional autonomy thesis asserting that cognition is independent of implementation details. (shrink)
Causalists about explanation claim that to explain an event is to provide information about the causal history of that event. Some causalists also endorse a proportionality claim, namely that one explanation is better than another insofar as it provides a greater amount of causal information. In this chapter I consider various challenges to these causalist claims. There is a common and influential formulation of the causalist requirement – the ‘Causal Process Requirement’ – that does appear vulnerable to these (...) anti-causalist challenges, but I argue that they do not give us reason to reject causalism entirely. Instead, these challenges lead us to articulate the causalist requirement in an alternative way. This alternative articulation incorporates some of the important anti-causalist insights without abandoning the explanatory necessity of causal information. For example, proponents of the ‘equilibrium challenge’ argue that the best available explanations of the behaviour of certain dynamical systems do not appear to provide any causal information. I respond that, contrary to appearances, these equilibrium explanations are fundamentally causal, and I provide a formulation of the causalist thesis that is immune to the equilibrium challenge. I then show how this formulation is also immune to the ‘epistemic challenge’ – thus vindicating (a properly formulated version of) the causalist thesis. (shrink)
Lately, philosophers of mathematics have been exploring the notion of mathematical explanation within mathematics. This project is supposed to be analogous to the search for the correct analysis of scientific explanation. I argue here that given the way philosophers have been using “explanation,” the term is not applicable to mathematics as it is in science.
Since the publication of Carl Hempel and Paul Oppenheim's ground-breaking work "Studies in the Logic of Explanation," the theory of explanation has remained a major topic in the philosophy of science. This valuable collection provides readers with the opportunity to study some of the classic essays on the theory of explanation along with the best examples of the most recent work being done on the topic. In addition to the original Hempel and Oppenheim paper, the volume includes (...) Scriven's critical reaction to it, Wilfrid Sellars's discussion of the problem of theoretical explanation, and pieces by Salmon, Railton, van Fraassen, Friedman, Kitcher, and Achinstein in which they demonstrate the vitality of the subject by extending the scope of the inquiry. (shrink)
The aim of this series is to bring together important recent writings in major areas of philosophical inquiry, selected from a variety of sources, mostly periodicals, which may not be conveniently available to the university student or the general reader. The editor of each volume contributes an introductory essay on the items chosen and on the questions with which they deal. A selective bibliography is appended as a guide to further reading. This volume presents a selection of the most important (...) recent writings on the nature of explanation. It covers a broad range of topics from the philosophy of science to the central philosophical terrain of the theory of knowledge. The distinguished contributors include Peter Achinstein, Wesley C. Salmon, Carl G. Hempel, Philip Kitcher, Bas C. van Fraassen, Jaegwon Kim, B. Brody, Timothy McCarthy, Peter Railton, David Lewis, Peter Lipton, James Woodward, and Robert J. Matthews. (shrink)
In an explanation, what does the explaining and what gets explained? What are the relata of the explanation relation? Candidates include: people, events, facts, sentences, statements, and propositions.
Hill and Levine offer alternative explanations of these conceivabilities, concluding that these conceivabilities are thereby defeated as evidence. However, this strategy fails because their explanations generalize to all conceivability judgments concerning phenomenal states. Consequently, one could defend absolutely any theory of phenomenal states against conceivability arguments in just this way. This result conflicts with too many of our common sense beliefs about the evidential value of conceivability with respect to phenomenal states. The general moral is that the application of such (...) principles of explanatory defeat is neither simple nor straightforward. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with reasonings that purport to explain why certain organisms have certain traits by showing that their actual design is better than contrasting designs. Biologists call such reasonings ‘functional explanations’. To avoid confusion with other uses of that phrase, I call them ‘design explanations’. This paper discusses the structure of design explanations and how they contribute to scientific understanding. Design explanations are contrastive and often compare real organisms to hypothetical organisms that cannot possibly exist. They are not (...) causal but appeal to functional dependencies between an organism’s different traits. These explanations point out that because an organism has certain traits (e.g., it lives on land), it cannot be alive if the trait to be explained (e.g., having lungs) were replaced by a specified alternative (e.g., having gills). They can be understood from a mechanistic point of view as revealing the constraints on what mechanisms can be alive. (shrink)
I explore the connections between the idea that causes must be proportional to their effects, the idea that causation is contrastive, and the idea that more general explanations are superior in one respect to less general explanations.
SENSATIONALISM 1 1. Introductory 1 2. Mach's Sensationalism 4 3. Developments of Sensationalism 22 II. THE INHERENT WEAKNESS OF SEN- SATIONALISM 25 1. The Point of Sensationalism 25 2. The Ambiguity of 'Sensation' 27 3. The Fundamental Conflict 35 4. Mistakes, Incorrigibility and Simplicity 40 III. DESCRIPTION 51 1. Describing and Descriptions 51 2. Describing in Terms of Sensations 67 IV. THE POSSIBILITY OF 'PURE' DES- CRIPTIONS 79 V. SCIENTIFIC PROBLEMS 99 VI. DESCRIPTIONS AND EXPLANATIONS 111 BIBLIOGRAPHY 142 INDEX 145 (...) -/- -v- . (shrink)
This paper concerns non-causal normative explanations such as "This act is wrong because/in virtue of ___" (where the blank is often filled out in non-normative terms, such as "it causes pain"). The familiar intuition that normative facts aren't brute or ungrounded but anchored in non-normative facts seems to be in tension with the equally familiar idea that no normative fact can be fully explained in purely non-normative terms. I ask whether the tension could be resolved by treating the explanatory relation (...) in normative explanations as the sort of "grounding" relation that receives extensive discussion in recent metaphysics. I argue that this would help only under controversial assumptions about the nature of normative facts, and perhaps not even then. I won't try to resolve the tension, but draw a distinction between two different sorts of normative explanations (one concerning "bearers", the other concerning "sources", of normativity) which helps to identify constraints on a resolution. One distinctive constraint on normative explanations in particular might be that they should be able to play a role in normative justification. (shrink)
A frequent criticism of the neuroscientific approach to consciousness is that its theories describe only 'correlates' or 'analogues' of consciousness, and so fail to address the nature of consciousness itself. Despite its apparent logical simplicity, this criticism in fact relies on some substantive assumptions about the nature and evolution of scientific explanations. In particular, it is usually assumed that, in expressing correlations, neural correlate of consciousness (NCC) theories must fail to capture the causal structure relating brain and mind. Drawing on (...) work in the history and philosophy of science, I argue that this assumption - along with the related claim that even a correct NCC theory would fail to explain consciousness - is grounded in an inadequate conception of the way in which scientific explanations develop. Examination of parallel developments in 20th century biology reveals that, under the right circumstances, seemingly crude correspondences can play an essential role in scientific discovery and can sometimes become central to our everyday understanding of the phenomena in question. A proper understanding of this process clarifies the value of NCC theories and sheds light on the standards by which they should be evaluated. In closing, I describe two specific criteria for evaluating NCC proposals: intertheoretic bridge potential and detailed mapping. (shrink)
I offer an account of the relation between explanations of behaviour in terms of psychological states and explanations in terms of neural states that: makes it transparent how they can be true together; explains why explanations in terms of psychological states are characteristically of behaviour described in general and relational terms, and explains why certain sorts of neurological investigations undermine psychological explanations of behaviour, while others leave them intact. In the course of the argument, I offer an account of implicit (...) theories. (shrink)
In this paper I will discuss Kims powerful explanatory exclusion argument against the causal efficacy of mental properties. Baker and Burge misconstrue Kims challenge if they understand it as being based on a purely metaphysical understanding of causation that has no grounding in an epistemological analysis of our successful scientific practices. As I will show, the emphasis on explanatory practices can only be effective in answering Kim if it is understood as being part of the dual-explanandum strategy. Furthermore, a fundamental (...) problem of the contemporary debate about mental causation consists in the fact that all sides take very different examples to be paradigmatic for the relation between psychological and neurobiological explanations. Even if we should expect some alignment in the explanatory scope of neurobiology and psychology/folk-psychology, there is no reason to expect that all mental explanations are exempted by physical explanations, since they do not in general explain the same phenomena. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to set forth a sense in which programs can and do explain behavior, and to distinguish from this a number of senses in which they do not. Once we are tolerably clear concerning the sort of explanatory strategy being employed, two rather interesting facts emerge; (1) though it is true that programs are "internally represented," this fact has no explanatory interest beyond the mere fact that the program is executed; (2) programs which are couched (...) in information processing terms may have an explanatory interest for a given range of behavior which is independent of physiological explanations of the same range of behavior. (shrink)
This article reports results from two studies of how people answer counterfactual questions about simple machines. Participants learned about devices that have a specific configuration of components, and they answered questions of the form “If component X had not operated [failed], would component Y have operated?” The data from these studies indicate that participants were sensitive to the way in which the antecedent state is described—whether component X “had not operated” or “had failed.” Answers also depended on whether the device (...) is deterministic or probabilistic—whether X's causal parents “always” or only “usually” cause X to operate. Participants' explanations of their answers often invoked non-operation of causally prior components or unreliability of prior connections. They less often mentioned independence from these causal elements. (shrink)
In the beginning, there was the DN (Deductive Nomological) model of explanation, articulated by Hempel and Oppenheim (1948). According to DN, scientific explanation is subsumption under natural law. Individual events are explained by deducing them from laws together with initial conditions (or boundary conditions), and laws are explained by deriving them from other more fundamental laws, as, for example, the simple pendulum law is derived from Newton's laws of motion.
This paper explores some issues concerning the nature and structure of causal explanation in psychiatry and psychology from the point of view of the “interventionist” theory defended in my book, Making Things Happen. Among the issues is explored is the extent to which candidate causal explanations involving “upper level” or relatively coarse-grained or macroscopic variables such as mental/psychological states (e.g. highly self critical beliefs or low self esteem) or environmental factors (e.g. parental abuse) compete with explanations that instead appeal (...) to underlying, “lower level” or more fine gained neural, genetic, or biochemical mechanisms. (shrink)
A scientific theory, in order to be accepted as a part of theoretical scientific knowledge, must satisfy both empirical and non-empirical requirements, the latter having to do with simplicity, unity, explanatory character, symmetry, beauty. No satisfactory, generally accepted account of such non-empirical requirements has so far been given. Here, a proposal is put forward which, it is claimed, makes a contribution towards solving the problem. This proposal concerns unity of physical theory. In order to satisfy the non-empirical requirement of unity, (...) a physical theory must be such that the same laws govern all possible phenomena to which the theory applies. Eight increasingly demanding versions of this requirement are distinguished. Some implications for other non-empirical requirements, and for our understanding of science are indicated. (shrink)