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Profile: Laura Franklin-Hall (New York University)
  1. L. R. Franklin-Hall (2014). High-Level Explanation and the Interventionist's 'Variables Problem'. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axu040.
    The interventionist account of causal explanation, in the version presented by Jim Woodward, 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 (...)
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    L. R. Franklin-Hall, The Meta-Explanatory Question.
    Philosophical theories of explanation characterize the difference between correct and incorrect explanations. While remaining neutral as to which of these ‘first-order’ theories is right, this paper asks the ‘meta-explanatory’ question: is the difference between correct and incorrect explanation real, i.e., objective or mind-independent? After offering a framework for distinguishing realist from anti-realist views, I sketch three distinct paths to explanatory anti-realism.
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  3. L. R. Franklin-Hall (2015). Natural Kinds as Categorical Bottlenecks. Philosophical Studies 172 (4):925-948.
    Both realist and anti-realist accounts of natural kinds possess prima facie virtues: realists can straightforwardly make sense of the apparent objectivity of the natural kinds, and anti-realists, their knowability. This paper formulates a properly anti-realist account designed to capture both merits. In particular, it recommends understanding natural kinds as ‘categorical bottlenecks,’ those categories that not only best serve us, with our idiosyncratic aims and cognitive capacities, but also those of a wide range of alternative agents. By endorsing an ultimately subjective (...)
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  4. L. R. Franklin-Hall (forthcoming). New Mechanistic Explanation and the Need for Explanatory Constraints. In Ken Aizawa & Carl Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Ground. Palgrave
    This paper critiques the new mechanistic explanatory program on grounds that, even when applied to the kinds of examples that it was originally designed to treat, it does not distinguish correct explanations from those that blunder. First, I offer a systematization of the explanatory account, one according to which explanations are mechanistic models that satisfy three desiderata: they must 1) represent causal relations, 2) describe the proper parts, and 3) depict the system at the right ‘level.’ Second, I argue that (...)
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  5. L. R. Franklin-Hall (2015). Explaining Causal Selection with Explanatory Causal Economy: Biology and Beyond. In P.-A. Braillard & C. Malaterre (eds.), Explanation in Biology: An Enquiry into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences. Springer 413-438.
    Among the factors necessary for the occurrence of some event, which of these are selectively highlighted in its explanation and labeled as causes — and which are explanatorily omitted, or relegated to the status of background conditions? Following J. S. Mill, most have thought that only a pragmatic answer to this question was possible. In this paper I suggest we understand this ‘causal selection problem’ in causal-explanatory terms, and propose that explanatory trade-offs between abstraction and stability can provide a principled (...)
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    L. R. Franklin-Hall (2010). Trashing Life's Tree. Biology and Philosophy 25 (4):689-709.
    The Tree of Life has traditionally been understood to represent the history of species lineages. However, recently researchers have suggested that it might be better interpreted as representing the history of cellular lineages, sometimes called the Tree of Cells. This paper examines and evaluates reasons offered against this cellular interpretation of the Tree of Life. It argues that some such reasons are bad reasons, based either on a false attribution of essentialism, on a misunderstanding of the problem of lineage identity, (...)
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    L. R. Franklin-Hall (2016). High-Level Explanation and the Interventionist’s ‘Variables Problem’. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (2):553-577.
    The interventionist account of causal explanation, in the version presented by Woodward, 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 article 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 (...)
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