In this paper, the relation between identity-based reduction and one specific sort of reductiveexplanation 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 reductiveexplanation are incompatible, is critically examined. From the discussion of this argument, some important consequences about the notion of reduction are pointed out.
This paper examines a paradigm case of allegedly successful reductiveexplanation, 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 reductiveexplanation 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 reductiveexplanation 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)
Is conceptual analysis required for reductiveexplanation? If there is no a priori entailment from microphysical truths to phenomenal truths, does reductiveexplanation of the phenomenal fail? We say yes (Chalmers 1996; Jackson 1994, 1998). Ned Block and Robert Stalnaker say no (Block and Stalnaker 1999).
In this paper I examine Chalmers and Jackson’s defence of the a <span class='Hi'>priori</span> entailment thesis, that is, the claim that microphysical truths a <span class='Hi'>priori</span> entail ordinary non-phenomenal truths such as ‘water covers 60% of the Earth surface’, which they use as a premise for an argument against the possibility of a reductiveexplanation of consciousness. Their argument relies on a certain view about the possession conditions of macroscopic concepts such as WATER, known as ascriptivism. In the (...) paper I distinguish two versions of ascriptivism: reductive versus non-reductive ascriptivism. According to reductive ascriptivism, competent users of a concept have the ability to infer truths involving such concept from lower-level truths, whereas according to non-reductive ascriptivism, all that is required in order to be a competent user of a concept is to be able to infer truths involving that concept from other truths, which need not be lower-level truths. I argue, first, that the a <span class='Hi'>priori</span> entailment thesis is committed to reductive ascriptivism, and secondly, that reductive ascriptivism is problematic because it trivializes the notion of a <span class='Hi'>priori</span> knowledge. Therefore, I conclude that Chalmers and Jackson have not presented a convincing case for the claim that microphysical truths entail ordinary non-phenomenal truths a <span class='Hi'>priori</span>, especially when we understand this claim in the sense that is relevant for their argument against the possibility of a reductiveexplanation of consciousness. (shrink)
The inapplicability of variations on theory reduction in the context of genetics and their irrelevance to ongoing research has led to an anti-reductionist consensus in philosophy of biology. One response to this situation is to focus on forms of reductiveexplanation that better correspond to actual scientific reasoning (e.g. part–whole relations). Working from this perspective, we explore three different aspects (intrinsicality, fundamentality, and temporality) that arise from distinct facets of reductiveexplanation: composition and causation. Concentrating on (...) these aspects generates new forms of reductiveexplanation and conditions for their success or failure in biology and other sciences. This analysis is illustrated using the case of protein folding in molecular biology, which demonstrates its applicability and relevance, as well as illuminating the complexity of reductive reasoning in a specific biological context. (shrink)
This paper details an evolving dynamic systems hierarchy and explores its relationship with conceptual, evolutionary, physiological, and behavioural characteristics that include phenomenal experience. In doing this, the paper demonstrates an example of a type-C physicalist's reductiveexplanation of phenomenal experience that is coherent with stipulated philosophical criteria and theories. By providing a reductiveexplanation of phenomenal experience, the paper provides insights toward explaining many unique human characteristics. These include, creativity, the origins of language as distinct from (...) animal communication, the evolution of morality, and the dynamics behind bias and prejudice. Furthermore, the reductiveexplanation provides foundations for artificial consciousness applications. (shrink)
Instances of explanatory reduction are often advocated on metaphysical grounds; given that the only real things in the world are subatomic particles and their interaction, we have to try to explain everything in terms of the laws of physics. In this paper, we show that explanatory reduction cannot be defended on metaphysical grounds. Nevertheless, indispensability arguments for reductive explanations can be developed, taking into account actual scientific practice and the role of epistemic interests. Reductive explanations might be indispensable (...) to address some epistemic interest answering a specific explanation-seeking question in the most accurate, adequate and efficient way. Just like explanatory pluralists often advocate the indispensability of higher levels of explanation pointing at the pragmatic value of the explanatory information obtained on these higher levels, we argue that explanatory reduction—traditionally understood as the contender of pluralism—can be defended in a similar way. The pragmatic value reductionist, lower level explanations might have in the biomedical sciences and the social sciences is illustrated by some case studies. (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)
Many biologists and philosophers have worried that importing models of reasoning from the physical sciences obscures our understanding of reasoning in the life sciences. In this paper we discuss one example that partially validates this concern: part-whole reductive explanations. Biology and physics tend to incorporate different models of temporality in part-whole reductive explanations. This results from differential emphases on compositional and causal facets of reductive explanations, which have not been distinguished reliably in prior philosophical analyses. Keeping these (...) two facets distinct facilitates the identifi cation of two further aspects of reductiveexplanation: intrinsicality and fundamentality. Our account provides resources for discriminating between different types of reductiveexplanation and suggests a new approach to comprehending similarities and differences in the explanatory reasoning found in biology and physics. (shrink)
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 reductiveexplanation 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)
This paper analyses Richard Bader’s ‘operational’ view of quantum mechanics and the role it plays in the the explanation of chemistry. I argue that QTAIM can partially be reconstructed as an ‘austere’ form of quantum mechanics, which is in turn committed to an eliminative concept of reduction that stems from Kemeny and Oppenheim. As a reductive theory in this sense, the theory fails. I conclude that QTAIM has both a regulatory and constructive function in the theories of chemistry.
Nagel’s official model of theory-reduction and the way it is represented in the literature are shown to be incompatible with the careful remarks on the notion of reduction Nagel gave while developing his model. Based on these remarks, an alternative model is outlined which does not face some of the problems the official model faces. Taking the context in which Nagel developed his model into account, it is shown that the way Nagel shaped his model and, thus, its well-known deficiencies, (...) are best conceived of as a mere by-product of his philosophical background. (shrink)
According to the self-representational theory of consciousness – self- representationalism for short – a mental state is phenomenally conscious when, and only when, it represents itself in the right way. In this paper, I consider how self- representationalism might address the alleged explanatory gap between phenomenal consciousness and physical properties. I open with a presentation of self- representationalism and the case for it (§1). I then present what I take to be the most promising self-representational approach to the explanatory gap (...) (§2). That approach is threatened, however, by an objection to self-representationalism, due to Levine, which I call the just more representation objection (§3). I close with a discussion of how the self-representationalist might approach the objection (§4). (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 reductiveexplanation 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)
among them Joseph Levine, David Chalmers, Frank Jackson and Jaegwon Kim?have claimed that there are conceptual grounds sufficient for ruling out the possibility of a reductiveexplanation of phenomenal consciousness. Their claim assumes a functional model of reduction (regarded by Kim as an alternative to the traditional Nagelian model) which requires an a priori entailment from the facts in the reduction base to the phenomena to be explained. The aim of this paper is to show that this is (...) an unreasonable requirement?a requirement that no reductiveexplanation in science should be expected to satisfy. I argue that the functional model is not substantively different from the Nagelian model properly understood, and that the question whether consciousness is reductively explainable?in a sense involving property identifications or in some weaker sense compatible with Nagelian reduction?is a fundamentally empirical question, not one that can be settled on conceptual grounds alone. Introduction Kim's critique of the Nagelian model of reduction The functional model of reduction Is consciousness reducible? Psychophysical reduction: concluding remarks. (shrink)
A major part of the mind–body problem is to explain why a given set of physical processes should give rise to qualia of one sort rather than another. Colour hues are the usual example considered here, and there is a lively debate between, for example, Hardin, Levine, Jackson, Clark and Chalmers as to whether the results of colour vision science can provide convincing explanations of why colours actually look the way they do. This paper examines carefully the type of (...) class='Hi'>explanation that is needed here, and it is concluded that it does not have to be reductive to be effective. What needs to be explained more than anything is why inverted hue scenarios are more intuitive than other sensory inversions: and the issue of physicalism versus dualism is only of marginal relevance here. (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)
This paper contributes to the recently renewed debate over methodological individualism (MI) by carefully sorting out various individualist claims and by making use of recent work on reduction and explanation outside the social sciences. My major focus is on individualist claims about reduction and explanation. I argue that reductionist versions of MI fail for much the same reasons that mental predicates cannot be reduced to physical predicates and that attempts to establish reducibility by weakening the requirements for reduction (...) also fail. I consider and reject a number of explanatory theses, among them the claims that any adequate theory must refer only to individuals and that individualist theory suffices to explain fully. The latter claim, I argue, is not entailed by the supervenience of social facts on individual facts. Lastly, I argue that there is one individualist restriction on explanation which is far more plausible and significant than one would initially suspect. (shrink)
The contributors to this volume examine the motivations for anti-reductionist views, and assess their coherence and success, in a number of different fields, including moral and mental philosophy, psychology, organic biology, and the social sciences.
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)
This essay analyzes and develops recent views about explanation in biology. Philosophers of biology have parted with the received deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation primarily by attempting to capture actual biological theorizing and practice. This includes an endorsement of different kinds of explanation (e.g., mathematical and causal-mechanistic), a joint study of discovery and explanation, and an abandonment of models of theory reduction in favor of accounts of explanatory reduction. Of particular current interest are philosophical accounts of (...) complex explanations that appeal to different levels of organismal organization and use contributions from different biological disciplines. The essay lays out one model that views explanatory integration across different disciplines as being structured by scientific problems. I emphasize the philosophical need to take the explanatory aims pursued by different groups of scientists into account, as explanatory aims determine whether different explanations are competing or complementary and govern the dynamics of scientific practice, including interdisciplinary research. I distinguish different kinds of pluralism that philosophers have endorsed in the context of explanation in biology, and draw several implications for science education, especially the need to teach science as an interdisciplinary and dynamic practice guided by scientific problems and explanatory aims. (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.
Kitcher's unification theory of explanation seems to suggest that only the most reductive accounts can legitimately be termed explanatory. This is not what we find in actual scientific practice. In this paper, I attempt to reconcile these ideas. I claim that Kitcher's theory picks out ideal explanations, but that our term explanation is used to cover other accounts that have a certain relationship with the ideal accounts. At times, versions and portions of ideal explanations can also be (...) considered explanatory. (shrink)
The notion of emergence has received much renewed attention recently. Most of the authors I review (§ II), including most notably Robert Batterman (2002, 2003, 2004) share the common aim of providing accounts for emergence which offer fresh insights from highly articulated and nuanced views reflecting recent developments in applied physics. Moreover, the authors present such accounts to reveal what they consider as misrepresentative and oversimplified abstractions often depicted in standard philosophical accounts. With primary focus on Batterman, however, I show (...) (in § III), that despite (or perhaps because of) such novel and compelling insights; underlying thematic tensions and ambiguities persist nevertheless, due to subtle reifications made of particular (albeit central) mathematical methods employed in asymptotic analysis. I offer a potential candidate (in § IV), for regularization advanced by the theoretical physicist David Finkelstein (1996, 2002, 2004). The richly characterized multilinear algebraic theories employed by Finkelstein would, for instance, serve the two-fold purpose of clearing up much of the inevitably “epistemological emergence” accompanying divergent limiting cases treated in the standard approaches, while at the same time characterize in relatively greater detail the “ontological emergence” of particular quantum phenomena under study. Among other things, this suggests that the some of the structures suggested by Batterman as essentially involving the superseded theory are better understood as regular algebraic contraction (Finkelstein). Because of the regularization latent in such powerful multilinear algebraic methods, among other things this calls into question Batterman’s claims that explanation and reduction should be kept separate, in instances involving singular limits. (§ V). (shrink)
John Bickle's new book on philosophy and neuroscience is aptly subtitled 'a ruthlessly reductive account'. His 'new wave metascience' is a massive attack on the relative autonomy that psychology enjoyed until recently, and goes even beyond his previous (Bickle, J. (1998). Psychoneural reduction: The new wave. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.) new wave reductionsism. Reduction of functional psychology to (cognitive) neuroscience is no longer ruthless enough; we should now look rather to cellular or molecular neuroscience at the lowest possible level (...) for explanations of memory, consciousness and attention. Bickle presents a fascinating set of experimental cases of such molecule-to-mind explanations. This book qualifies as a showcase of naturalism in the philosophy of mind. Naturally, many of the traditional conceptual approaches in the philosophy of mind are given short shrift, but - in Bickle's metascientific scheme - the role of philosophy of science also seems reduced to explicating laboratory findings. The present reviewers think that this reductionism suffers from overstretching; in particular, the idea of 'explanation in a single bound' from molecule to mind is a bit too ruthless. Still, Bickle's arguments are worth serious attention. (shrink)
A common argument against explanatory reductionism is that higher‐level explanations are sometimes or always preferable because they are more general than reductive explanations. Here I challenge two basic assumptions that are needed for that argument to succeed. It cannot be assumed that higher‐level explanations are more general than their lower‐level alternatives or that higher‐level explanations are general in the right way to be explanatory. I suggest a novel form of pluralism regarding levels of explanation, according to which explanations (...) at different levels are preferable in different circumstances because they offer different types of generality, which are appropriate in different circumstances of explanation. *Received July 2009; revised September 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Oklahoma State University, 246 Murray Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (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)
The main message of the paper is that there is a disconnect between what many philosophers of mind think of as the scientific practice of reductive or reductionist explanation, and what the most relevant scientific work is actually like. I will sketch what I see as a better view, drawing on various ideas in recent philosophy of science. I then import these ideas into the philosophy of mind, to see what difference they make.1 At the end of the (...) paper I address a possible objection: the familiar package of ideas I reject in the philosophy of science should not be lightly discarded, because other popular views on fundamental issues depend on positions that I want to reject. I reply that those apparently attractive further ideas are not worth holding onto. (shrink)
Alexander Miller has recently considered an ingenious extension of Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit's account of 'program explanation' as a way of defending non-reductive naturalist versions of moral realism against Harman's explanatory criticism. Despite the ingenuity of this extension, Miller concludes that program explanation cannot help such moral realists in their attempt to defend moral properties. Specifically, he argues that such moral program explanations are dispensable from an epistemically unlimited point of view. I show that Miller's argument (...) for this negative claim is inadequate, and that he has, in spite of himself, identified a promising defence of moral realism. (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)
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?
We typically explain human action teleologically, by citing the action's goal or purpose. However, a broad class of naturalistic projects within the philosophy of mind presuppose that teleological explanation is reducible to causal explanation. In this paper I argue that two recently suggested strategies - one suggested by Al Mele and the other proposed by John Bishop and Christopher Peacocke - fail to provide a successful causal analysis of teleological explanation. The persistent troubles encountered by the (...) class='Hi'>reductive project suggest that teleological explanations are irreducible and that the naturalistic accounts of mind and agency should be called into question. (shrink)
What is it to explain a psychological phenomenon (e.g., a person remembering a nanie, navigating through campus, untlerstanding huntor) In philoÂ»ophy, a traditional answer is that to explain a phenomenon is toÂ»how it to be the expectecl result of prior circumstances given a scientific law. Influenced by thiÂ» perspective. behaviorists directed psychology toward the search for the laws of learning that explained all behavior as the consequence of particular conditioning regiinens. Although discussion of laws remains comiiionplace in philosophical accounts of..
Metaphor is commonly taken to be an elliptical simile. This article offers a rational reconstruction of two types of simile theories of metaphor: reductive and non-reductive. Careful analysis shows the differences between these theories, but in the end, neither does the explanatory work it sets out to do. In assimilating metaphor to simile and simile to literal comparison, the reductive simile theory obscures what is most important to an account of metaphor: an account of what it is (...) to interpret a bit of discourse metaphorically. The reductive simile theory fails because the reduction to literal comparison fails. The non-reductive simile theory faces most of the same problems that undermine the simile theory, particularly problems generating a corresponding simile when the metaphor contains quantificational terms and other linguistic complexities. Analysis of the non-reductive simile theory highlights the troublesome assumption (inherent in all simile theories) that metaphor and simile play the same linguistic role: making or prompting us to make comparisons. In both guises, the simile theory mistakes the task of explaining what a metaphor means with how metaphor (in general) has meaning; it confuses explanation with explication. In diagnosing and arguing against the simile theory, this article sets out a framework for understanding the difference between literal and metaphorical interpretation. (shrink)
Advocates and opponents of Humean Supervenience (HS) have neglected a crucial feature of nomic explanation: laws can explain by generating descriptions of possibilities. Dretske and Armstrong have opposed HS by arguing that laws construed as Humean regularities cannot explain, but their arguments fail precisely because they neglect to consider this generating role of laws. Humeans have dismissed the intuitive violations of HS manifested by John Carroll's Mirror Worlds as erroneous, but distinguishing the laws' generating role from the non-Humean notion (...) that laws govern undermines such responses, and renews the force of Carroll's critique of HS. However, it also undermines the assumption that HS is constitutive of Humeanism. The generating role of laws readily motivates a non-reductive Humeanism that violates HS. An account is sketched, and is seen to provide a novel explanation of the governing intuition. (shrink)
In chapter 8 of Miller 2003, I argued against the idea that Jackson and Pettit's notion of program explanation might help Sturgeon's non-reductive naturalist version of moral realism respond to the explanatory challenge posed by Harman. In a recent paper in the AJP[Nelson 2006, Mark Nelson has attempted to defend the idea that program explanation might prove useful to Sturgeon in replying to Harman. In this note, I suggest that Nelson's argument fails.
The present paper presents a philosophical analysis of earth science, a discipline that has received relatively little attention from philosophers of science. We focus on the question of whether earth science can be reduced to allegedly more fundamental sciences, such as chemistry or physics. In order to answer this question, we investigate the aims and methods of earth science, the laws and theories used by earth scientists, and the nature of earth-scientific explanation. Our analysis leads to the tentative conclusion (...) that there are emergent phenomena in earth science but that these may be reducible to physics. However, earth science does not have irreducible laws, and the theories of earth science are typically hypotheses about unobservable (past) events or generalised - but not universally valid - descriptions of contingent processes. Unlike more fundamental sciences, earth science is characterised by explanatory pluralism: earth scientists employ various forms of narrative explanations in combination with causal explanations. The main reason is that earth-scientific explanations are typically hampered by local underdetermination by the data to such an extent that complete causal explanations are impossible in practice, if not in principle. (shrink)
1. Introduction: Naturalism and Psychological Explanations To a large extent, contemporary philosophical debate takes place within a framework of naturalistic assumptions. From the perspective of the history of philosophy, naturalism is the legacy of positivism without its empiricist epistemology and empiricist conception of meaning and cognitive significance. Systematically, it is best to characterize naturalism as the philosophical articulation of the underlying presuppositions of a reductive scientific research program that was rather successful in the last few centuries and, equally important, (...) promises to be so in the future particularly in the biological sciences and the neurosciences. It seems as if the secrets of human life and behavior and the mysteries of the mind will be cracked on the molecular level of the genes or the brain, or at least so we are told. Viewed in this manner it is understandable why philosophical naturalism tends to be committed to monism, both as a metaphysical or ontological claim and as a methodological position in the philosophy of social science. Naturalists are inclined to adopt a physicalist ontology that rejects free floating Cartesian substances and they view higher order macroscopic facts and properties as being dependent or supervenient on basic micro-physical facts. Naturalists, furthermore, expect that any scientific explanation of higher order properties has to provide an account of why and how these lower order facts give rise to higher order ones. These ontological and epistemic commitments also underpin a position of methodological monism in regard to the social sciences and the explanation of human agency. If the above ontological picture is correct then there is no reason to expect that the structure of the sciences dealing with higher order properties on the social level should fundamentally differ in their methodology from the natural sciences. In both domains of investigation, scientists will develop and make explanatory use of comprehensive and empirically well supported theories with adequate predictive powers that describe.... (shrink)
Philosophers of science have often favoured reductive approaches to how-possibly explanation. This article identifies three alternative conceptions making how-possibly explanation an interesting phenomenon in its own right. The first variety approaches “how possibly X?” by showing that X is not epistemically impossible. This can sometimes be achieved by removing misunderstandings concerning the implications of one’s current belief system but involves characteristically a modification of this belief system so that acceptance of X does not result in contradiction. The (...) second variety offers a potential how-explanation of X. It is usually followed by a range of further potential how-explanations of the same phenomenon. In recent literature the factual claims implied by the second variety have been downplayed whereas the heuristic role of mapping the space of conceptual possibilities has been emphasized. I will focus especially on this truth-bracketing sense of potentiality when looking closer at the second variety in the paper. The third variety has attracted less interest. It presents a partial how-explanation of X. Typically it aims to establish the existence of a mechanism by which X could be and was generated. The third conception stands out as the natural alternative for the advocate of ontic how-possibly explanations. This article transfers Salmon’s (1984) view that explanation-concepts can be broadly divided into epistemic, modal, and ontic to the context of how-possibly explanations. Moreover, it is argued that each of the three above-mentioned varieties of how-possibly explanation occurs in science. To recognize this may be especially relevant for philosophers. We are often misled by the promises of various why-explanation accounts, and seem to have forgotten nearly everything about the diversity of how-possibly explanations. (shrink)
Bo kovi 's explanatory procedure and his concept of explanation represents a certain departure from Newton's causal theory and his theory of explanation. Apart from particular elements of causal explanation, Bo kovi developed an alternative, non-causal explanatory strategy. In this paper two different elements of this strategy are discussed: (i) the micro-reductive explanatory strategy based on Bo kovi 's idea of determination, and (ii) a type of explanation of a theory by (...) means of a more general law, through a thought-experiment. In addition, an outline of the proposed (iii) 'argument theory' of explanation in his mature period is made. These aspects are considered with respect to the realist and anti-realist elements in Bo kovi 's epistemology. (shrink)
Abstract This paper argues that there are good reasons to adopt a non?reductive account of states when it comes to quantum mechanics. That is to say, it is argued that there are advantages to thinking about states as sui generis, as reducible to classes of values of quantities, when it comes to the quantum domain. One reason for holding this view is that it seems to improve the prospects for explanation. In more detail, it is argued that there (...) is an ?explanatory shortfall? in the quantum domain owing to the failure of value definiteness. To remedy this situation, two proposals are put forward about the nature of the quantum state: Proposal A, that the quantum state is the only first?order property of quantum systems, Proposal B, that the quantum state is one first?order property among many. These proposals seem equally good. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Some claim that Non-reductive Physicalism (NRP) is an unstable position, on grounds that NRP either collapses into reductive physicalism (contra Non-reduction ), or expands into emergentism of a robust or ‘strong’ variety (contra Physicalism ). I argue that this claim is unfounded, by attention to the notion of a degree of freedom—roughly, an independent parameter needed to characterize an entity as being in a state functionally relevant to its law-governed properties and behavior. I start by distinguishing three relations (...) that may hold between the degrees of freedom needed to characterize certain special science entities, and those needed to characterize (systems consisting of) their composing physical (or physically acceptable) entities; these correspond to what I call ‘reductions’, ‘restrictions’, and ‘eliminations’ in degrees of freedom. I then argue that eliminations in degrees of freedom, in particular—when strictly fewer degrees of freedom are required to characterize certain special science entities than are required to characterize (systems consisting of) their composing physical (or physically acceptable) entities—provide a basis for making sense of how certain special science entities can be both physically acceptable and ontologically irreducible to physical entities. (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.
I argue that an adequate account of non-reductive realization must guarantee satisfaction of a certain condition on the token causal powers associated with (instances of) realized and realizing entities---namely, what I call the 'Subset Condition on Causal Powers' (first introduced in Wilson 1999). In terms of states, the condition requires that the token powers had by a realized state on a given occasion be a proper subset of the token powers had by the state that realizes it on that (...) occasion. Accounts of non-reductive realization conforming to this condition are implementing what I call 'the powers-based subset strategy'. I focus on the crucial case involving mental and brain states; the results may be generalized, as appropriate. I ﬁrst situate and motivate the strategy by attention to the problem of mental causation; I make the case, in schematic terms, that implementation of the strategy makes room (contra Kim 1989, 1993, 1998, and elsewhere) for mental states to be ontologically and causally autonomous from their realizing physical states, without inducing problematic causal overdetermination, and compatible with both Physicalism and Non-reduction; and I show that several contemporary accounts of non-reductive realization (in terms of functional realization, parthood, and the determinable/determinate relation) are plausibly seen as implementing the strategy. As I also show, implementation of the powers-based strategy does not require endorsement of any particular accounts of either properties or causation---indeed, a categoricalist contingentist Humean can implement the strategy. The schematic location of the strategy in the space of available responses to the problem of mental (more generally, higher-level) causation, as well as the fact that the schema may be metaphysically instantiated, strongly suggests that the strategy is, appropriately generalized and instantiated, sufficient and moreover necessary for non-reductive realization. I go on to defend the sufficiency and necessity claims against a variety of objections, considering, along the way, how the powers-based subset strategy fares against competing accounts of purportedly non-reductive realization in terms of supervenience, token identity, and constitution. (shrink)
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.
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)
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)
Descriptive accounts of the nature of explanation in neuroscience and the global goals of such explanation have recently proliferated in the philosophy of neuroscience (e.g., Bechtel, Mental mechanisms: Philosophical perspectives on cognitive neuroscience. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007; Bickle, Philosophy and neuroscience: A ruthlessly reductive account. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishing, 2003; Bickle, Synthese, 151, 411–434, 2006; Craver, Explaining the brain: Mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) and with them new understandings of (...) the <span class='Hi'>experimental</span> practices of neuroscientists have emerged. In this paper, I consider two models of such practices; one that takes them to be reductive; another that takes them to be integrative. I investigate those areas of the neuroscience of learning and memory from which the examples used to substantiate these models are culled, and argue that the multiplicity of <span class='Hi'>experimental</span> protocols used in these research areas presents specific challenges for both models. In my view, these challenges have been overlooked largely because philosophers have hitherto failed to pay sufficient attention to fundamental features of <span class='Hi'>experimental</span> practice. I demonstrate that when we do pay attention to such features, evidence for reduction and integrative unity in neuroscience is simply not borne out. I end by suggesting some new directions for the philosophy of neuroscience that pertain to taking a closer look at the nature of neuroscientific experiments. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)