Explanation

Edited by Brad Weslake (New York University, Shanghai)
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  1. Superexplanations for Counterfactual Knowledge.Antonella Mallozzi - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    I discuss several problems for Williamson’s counterfactual-theory of modal knowledge and argue that they have a common source, in that the theory neglects to elucidate the proper constraints on modal reasoning. Williamson puts forward an empirical hypothesis that rests on the role of counterfactual reasoning for modal knowledge. But he overlooks central questions of normative modal epistemology. In order for counterfactual reasoning to yield correct beliefs about modality, it needs to be suitably constrained. I argue that what is needed is, (...)
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  2. Calling for Explanation: The Case of the Thermodynamic Past State.Dan Baras & Orly Shenker - forthcoming - European Journal for Philosophy of Science.
    Philosophers of physics have long debated whether the Past State of low entropy of our universe calls for explanation. What is meant by “calls for explanation”? In this article we analyze this notion, distinguishing between several possible meanings that may be attached to it. Taking the debate around the Past State as a case study, we show how our analysis of what “calling for explanation” might mean can contribute to clarifying the debate and perhaps to settling it, thus demonstrating the (...)
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  3. The Use and Limitations of Null-Model-Based Hypothesis Testing.Mingjun Zhang - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (2):1-22.
    In this article I give a critical evaluation of the use and limitations of null-model-based hypothesis testing as a research strategy in the biological sciences. According to this strategy, the null model based on a randomization procedure provides an appropriate null hypothesis stating that the existence of a pattern is the result of random processes or can be expected by chance alone, and proponents of other hypotheses should first try to reject this null hypothesis in order to demonstrate their own (...)
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  4. Explanation.Martin Glazier - 2020 - In Michael J. Raven (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Metaphysical Grounding. London: pp. 121-132.
    I survey the philosophical literature on grounding explanation and its connection to metaphysical ground.
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  5. How Thin Rational Choice Theory Explains Choices.Roberto Fumagalli - forthcoming - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A.
    The critics of rational choice theory (RCT) frequently build on the contrast between so-called thick and thin applications of RCT to argue that thin RCT lacks the potential to explain the choices of real-world agents. In this paper, I draw on often-cited RCT applications in several decision sciences to demonstrate that despite this prominent critique there are at least two different senses in which thin RCT can explain real-world agents’ choices. I then defend this thesis against the most influential objections (...)
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  6. Explaining Explanation.Robert A. Wilson & Frank C. Keil - 2000 - In Frank C. And Wilson Keil (ed.), Explanation and Cognition. Cambridge, MA, USA: pp. 1-18.
    It is not a particularly hard thing to want or seek explanations. In fact, explanations seem to be a large and natural part of our cognitive lives. Children ask why and how questions very early in development and seem genuinely to want some sort of answer, despite our often being poorly equipped to provide them at the appropriate level of sophistication and detail. We seek and receive explanations in every sphere of our adult lives, whether it be to understand why (...)
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  7. Why Do Certain States of Affairs Call Out for Explanation? A Critique of Two Horwichian Accounts.Dan Baras - 2018 - Philosophia 47 (5):1405-1419.
    Motivated by examples, many philosophers believe that there is a significant distinction between states of affairs that are striking and therefore call for explanation and states of affairs that are not striking. This idea underlies several influential debates in metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics, normative theory, philosophy of modality, and philosophy of science but is not fully elaborated or explored. This paper aims to address this lack of clear explanation first by clarifying the epistemological issue at hand. Then it introduces an (...)
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  8. Is It Reasonable to Believe That Miracles Occur?Alberto Oya - 2019 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 38 (2):39-50.
    Traditionally, miracles have been defined as supernaturally caused events which are outside the scope of scientific explicability. In this paper I will criticize the argument that, when we lack a scientific explanation for an event but it has an adequate explanation in theistic terms, then the most reasonable conclusion is to claim that the event is a miracle. I will defend that this argument would not work unless we had prior independent evidence for God’s existence. Furthermore, I will argue that (...)
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  9. Struktura objašnjenja (Structure of Explanations).Daniel Kostic - 2012 - Belgrade, Serbia: Treći program.
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  10. Unifying the Debates: Mathematical and Non-Causal Explanations.Daniel Kostic - 2019 - Perspectives on Science 27 (1).
  11. General Theory of Topological Explanations and Explanatory Asymmetry.Daniel Kostic - 2020 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 375 (1796):1-8.
    In this paper, I present a general theory of topological explanations, and illustrate its fruitfulness by showing how it accounts for explanatory asymmetry. My argument is developed in three steps. In the first step, I show what it is for some topological property A to explain some physical or dynamical property B. Based on that, I derive three key criteria of successful topological explanations: a criterion concerning the facticity of topological explanations, i.e. what makes it true of a particular system; (...)
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  12. Speech Act Theory and the Multiple Aims of Science.Paul L. Franco - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (5):1005-1015.
    I draw upon speech act theory to understand the speech acts appropriate to the multiple aims of scientific practice and the role of nonepistemic values in evaluating speech acts made relative to those aims. First, I look at work that distinguishes explaining from describing within scientific practices. I then argue speech act theory provides a framework to make sense of how explaining, describing, and other acts have different felicity conditions. Finally, I argue that if explaining aims to convey understanding to (...)
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  13. Bolzano and Kim on Grounding and Unification.Stefan Roski - 2019 - Synthese 196 (7):2971-2999.
    It is sometimes mentioned that Bernard Bolzano’s work on grounding anticipates many insights of the current debate on metaphysical grounding. The present paper discusses a certain part of Bolzano’s theory of grounding that has thus far not been discussed in the literature. This part does not so much anticipate what are nowadays common assumptions about grounding, but rather goes beyond them. Central to the discussion will be a thesis of Bolzano’s by which he tries to establish a connection between grounding (...)
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  14. Bayesian Philosophy of Science.Jan Sprenger & Stephan Hartmann - 2019 - Oxford University Press.
    Jan Sprenger and Stephan Hartmann offer a fresh approach to central topics in philosophy of science, including causation, explanation, evidence, and scientific models. Their Bayesian approach uses the concept of degrees of belief to explain and to elucidate manifold aspects of scientific reasoning.
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  15. Mechanisms in Ecology.Viorel Pâslaru - 2018 - In Stuart Glennan & Phyllis McKay Illari (eds.), The Rutledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy. London and New York: pp. 348-361.
    New mechanistic philosophy has not examined explanations in ecology although they are based extensively on describing mechanisms responsible for phenomena under scrutiny. This chapter uses the example of research on the shrub Lonicera maackii (Amur honeysuckle) to scrutinize individual-level mechanisms that are generally accepted and used in ecology and confronts them with the minimal account of mechanisms. Individual-level mechanisms are for a phenomenon, are hierarchical, and absent entities play a role in their functioning. They are distinguished by the role played (...)
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  16. Berkeley, Newton, Explanation, and Causation.Richard Brook - 2019 - Ruch Filozoficzny 74 (4):21.
    Berkeley, Newton, Explanation, and Causation -/- I argue in this paper that Berkeley’s conception of natural law explanations, which echoes Newton’s, fails to solve a fundamental problem, which I label “explanatory asymmetry"; that the model of explanation Berkeley uses fails to distinguish between explanations and justifications, particularly since Berkeley denies real (efficient causes) in non-minded nature. At the end I suggest Berkeley might endorse a notion of understanding, say in astronomy or mechanics, which could be distinguished from explanation.
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  17. The End of Mystery.Sam Baron & Mark Colyvan - 2019 - American Philosophical Quarterly 56 (3):247-264.
    Tim travels back in time and tries to kill his grandfather before his father was born. Tim fails. But why? Lewis's response was to cite "coincidences": Tim is the unlucky subject of gun jammings, banana peels, sudden changes of heart, and so on. A number of challenges have been raised against Lewis's response. The latest of these focuses on explanation. This paper diagnoses the source of this new disgruntlement and offers an alternative explanation for Tim's failure, one that Lewis would (...)
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  18. Is Understanding Reducible?Lewis D. Ross - 2020 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 63 (2):117-135.
    Despite playing an important role in epistemology, philosophy of science, and more recently in moral philosophy and aesthetics, the nature of understanding is still much contested. One attractive framework attempts to reduce understanding to other familiar epistemic states. This paper explores and develops a methodology for testing such reductionist theories before offering a counterexample to a recently defended variant on which understanding reduces to what an agent knows.
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  19. The Structure and Epistemic Import of Multiple Determination in Scientific Practice.Klodian Coko - 2015 - Dissertation, Indiana University
    Empirical multiple determination (multiple determination, for short) is the epistemic strategy of establishing the same result by means of multiple and independent procedures. It is an important epistemic strategy praised by both philosophers of science and practicing scientists. Commentators from different contexts have referred to multiple determination as one of the main strategies that researchers use to establish the reliability of their results. Multiple determination has been used to address a variety of problems that arise because of the fallibility of (...)
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  20. Review of 'Theoretical Virtues in Science' by Samuel Schindler. [REVIEW]Darren Bradley - manuscript
  21. How Do Medical Researchers Make Causal Inferences?Olaf Dammann, Ted Poston & Paul Thagard - forthcoming - In What is scientific knowledge? An introduction to contemporary epistemology of science. London, UK:
    Bradford Hill (1965) highlighted nine aspects of the complex evidential situation a medical researcher faces when determining whether a causal relation exists between a disease and various conditions associated with it. These aspects are widely cited in the literature on epidemiological inference as justifying an inference to a causal claim, but the epistemological basis of the Hill aspects is not understood. We offer an explanatory coherentist interpretation, explicated by Thagard's ECHO model of explanatory coherence. The ECHO model captures the complexity (...)
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  22. Indispensable Falsehoods.Kevin McCain - 2018 - Science & Education 27 (5-6):547-550.
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  23. Indispensability, Causation and Explanation.Sorin Bangu - 2018 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 33 (2):219-232.
    When considering mathematical realism, some scientific realists reject it, and express sympathy for the opposite view, mathematical nominalism; moreover, many justify this option by invoking the causal inertness of mathematical objects. The main aim of this note is to show that the scientific realists’ endorsement of this causal mathematical nominalism is in tension with another position some of them also accept, the doctrine of methodological naturalism. By highlighting this conflict, I intend to tip the balance in favor of a rival (...)
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  24. Frameworks for Historians & Philosophers.Adrian Currie & Kirsten Walsh - 2018 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 9:1-34.
    The past can be a stubborn subject: it is complex, heterogeneous and opaque. To understand it, one must decide which aspects of the past to emphasise and which to minimise. Enter frameworks. Frameworks foreground certain aspects of the historical record while backgrounding others. As such, they are both necessary for, and conducive to, good history as well as good philosophy. We examine the role of frameworks in the history and philosophy of science and argue that they are necessary for both (...)
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  25. Grounding and the Explanatory Role of Generalizations.Stefan Roski - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (8):1985-2003.
    According to Hempel’s influential theory of explanation, explaining why some a is G consists in showing that the truth that a is G follows from a law-like generalization to the effect that all Fs are G together with the initial condition that a is F. While Hempel’s overall account is now widely considered to be deeply flawed, the idea that some generalizations play the explanatory role that the account predicts is still often endorsed by contemporary philosophers of science. This idea, (...)
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  26. Philosophy of Science A to Z, Arabic Translation فلسفة العلم من الألف إلى الياء.Salah Osman - 2018 - Cairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt: Ministry of Culture, National Center for Translation.
    دليل مُرتَّب أبجديًا للمصطلحات الأساسية، وكذلك لأشهر الأعلام، في المجالات المختلفة لفلسفة العلم. يُغطي الكتاب أبرز المشكلات، والمواقف، والتصورات، والحجج التي كانت مثار مناقشات واسعة بين الفلاسفة. والهدف الأساسي له هو فهم المناقشات الحالية من خلال تتبع وتفسير تطوراتها التاريخية وارتباطاتها بالمسائل الفلسفية الأبعد. ومع أن الكتاب يفترض مسبقًا وجود خلفية معرفية بفلسفة العلم لدى القارئ، إلا أنه مفيد بالقدر ذاته لكل من المبتدئين من دارسي فلسفة العلم، والمتخصصين ذوي الخبرات الواسعة، فضلاً عن عامة القُراء. وسوف يجد القارئ من خلال (...)
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  27. The Return of Causal Powers?Andreas Hüttemann - forthcoming - In Stathis Psillos, Henrik Lagerlund & Benjamin Hill (eds.), Causal Powers in Science: Blending Historical and Conceptual Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Powers, capacities and dispositions (in what follows I will use these terms synonymously) have become prominent in recent debates in metaphysics, philosophy of science and other areas of philosophy. In this paper I will analyse in some detail a well-known argument from scientific practice to the existence of powers/capacities/dispositions. According to this argument the practice of extrapolating scientific knowledge from one kind of situation to a different kind of situation requires a specific interpretation of laws of nature, namely as attributing (...)
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  28. The Difference Between Epistemic and Metaphysical Necessity.Martin Glazier - forthcoming - Synthese.
    Philosophers have observed that metaphysical necessity appears to be a true or real or genuine form of necessity while epistemic necessity does not. Similarly, natural necessity appears genuine while deontic necessity does not. But what is it for a form of necessity to be genuine? I defend an account of genuine necessity in explanatory terms. The genuine forms of necessity, I argue, are those that provide what I call necessitarian explanation. I discuss the relationship of necessitarian explanation to ground.
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  29. Nomothetic Explanation and Humeanism About Laws of Nature.Harjit Bhogal - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
    Humeanism about laws of nature — the view that the laws reduce to the Humean mosaic — is a popular view, but currently existing versions face powerful objections. The non-supervenience objection, the non-fundamentality objection and the explanatory circularity objection have all been thought to cause problems for the Humean. However, these objections share a guiding thought — they are all based on the idea that there is a certain kind of divergence between the practice of science and the metaphysical picture (...)
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  30. To Explain or to Predict: Which One is Mandatory?Robert Luk - 2018 - Foundations of Science 23 (2):411-414.
    Recently, Luk mentioned that scientific knowledge both explains and predicts. Do these two functions of scientific knowledge have equal significance, or is one of the two functions more important than the other? This commentary explains why prediction may be mandatory but explanation may be only desirable and optional.
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  31. Because Without Cause: Non-Causal Explanations in Science and Mathematics, by Marc Lange.Holly Andersen - 2018 - Mind 127 (506):593-602.
    Because Without Cause: Non-Causal Explanations in Science and Mathematics, by LangeMarc. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xxii + 489.
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  32. Explaining Explanation. David-Hillel Ruben.Robert T. Pennock - 1994 - Philosophy of Science 61 (1):146-147.
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  33. The Chances of Explanation: Causal Explanation in the Social, Medical and Physical Sciences. Paul Humphreys.Jim Woodward - 1993 - Philosophy of Science 60 (4):671-673.
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  34. Explanation, Causation and Deduction. Fred Wilson.Robert L. Causey - 1987 - Philosophy of Science 54 (2):311-313.
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  35. The Nature of Explanation. Peter Achinstein.James H. Fetzer - 1984 - Philosophy of Science 51 (3):516-519.
  36. Inferentialist-Expressivism for Explanatory Vocabulary.Jared A. Millson, Kareem Khalifa & Mark Risjord - 2018 - In Ondřej Beran, Vojtěch Kolman & Ladislav Koreň (eds.), From rules to meanings. New essays on inferentialism. Routledge.
    In this essay, we extend earlier inferentialist-expressivist treatments of traditional logical, semantic, modal, and representational vocabulary (Brandom 1994, 2008, 2015; Peregrin 2014) to explanatory vocabulary. From this perspective, Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) appears to be an obvious starting point. In its simplest formulation, IBE has the form: A best explains why B, B; so A. It thereby captures one of the central inferential features of explanation. An inferentialist-expressivist treatment of “best explains” would treat it as a logical operator. (...)
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  37. Unification and Explanation: Explanation as a Prototype Concept. A Reply to Weber and van Dyck, Gijsberg, and de Regt.Gerhard Schurz - 2014 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 29 (1):57-70.
    __In this paper I investigate unification as a virtue of explanation. I the first part of the paper I give a brief exposition of the unification account of Schurz and Lambert and Schurz. I illustrate the advantages of this account in comparison to the older unification accounts of Friedman and Kitcher. In the second part I discuss several comments and objections to the Schurz-Lambert account that were raised by Weber and van Dyck, Gijsberg and de Regt. In the third and (...)
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  38. Point-Particle Explanations: The Case of Gravitational Waves.Andrew Wayne - 2017 - Synthese:1-21.
    This paper explores the role of physically impossible idealizations in model-based explanation. We do this by examining the explanation of gravitational waves from distant stellar objects using models that contain point-particle idealizations. Like infinite idealizations in thermodynamics, biology and economics, the point-particle idealization in general relativity is physically impossible. What makes this case interesting is that there are two very different kinds of models used for predicting the same gravitational wave phenomena, post-Newtonian models and effective field theory models. The paper (...)
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  39. Extended Mechanistic Explanations: Expanding the Current Mechanistic Conception to Include More Complex Biological Systems.Sarah M. Roe & Bert Baumgaertner - 2017 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 48 (4):517-534.
    Mechanistic accounts of explanation have recently found popularity within philosophy of science. Presently, we introduce the idea of an extended mechanistic explanation, which makes explicit room for the role of environment in explanation. After delineating Craver and Bechtel’s account, we argue this suggestion is not sufficiently robust when we take seriously the mechanistic environment and modeling practices involved in studying contemporary complex biological systems. Our goal is to extend the already profitable mechanistic picture by pointing out the importance of the (...)
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  40. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science: New Essays.Matthew Slater & Zanja Yudell (eds.) - 2017 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
    This volume of new essays, written by leading philosophers of science, explores a broadly methodological question: what role should metaphysics play in our philosophizing about science? The essays address this question both through ground-level investigations of particular issues in the metaphysics of science and by more general methodological investigations.
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  41. Better Deductive Explanation?I. A. Omer - 1983 - Zeitschrift Für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 14 (2):350-353.
    I argue that the reasonable quest of looking for, and the desirable end of having better explanation of particular events are not allowed for by the deductive account of explanation except by total replacement of one theory by another. The article is also a trivialization of the deductive conception of complete explanation.
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  42. Unification, the Answer to Resemblance Questions.Erik Weber & Merel Lefevere - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3501-3521.
    In the current literature on scientific explanation unification became unfashionable in favour of causal approaches. We want to bring unification back into the picture. In this paper we demonstrate that resemblance questions do occur in scientific practice and that they cannot be properly answered without unification. Our examples show that resemblance questions about particular facts demand what we call causal network unification, while resemblance questions about regularities require what we call mechanism unification. We clarify how these types of unification relate (...)
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  43. What is the Problem of Explanation and Modeling?Raphael van Riel - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (3):263-275.
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  44. Difference-Making Grounds.Stephan Krämer & Stefan Roski - 2017 - Synthese 174 (5):1191-1215.
    We define a notion of difference-making for partial grounds of a fact in rough analogy to existing notions of difference-making for causes of an event. Using orthodox assumptions about ground, we show that it induces a non-trivial division with examples of partial grounds on both sides. We then demonstrate the theoretical fruitfulness of the notion by applying it to the analysis of a certain kind of putative counter-example to the transitivity of ground recently described by Jonathan Schaffer. First, we show (...)
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  45. Idealizations, Essential Self-Adjointness, and Minimal Model Explanation in the Aharonov–Bohm Effect.Shech Elay - 2017 - Synthese 195 (11):4839-4863.
    Two approaches to understanding the idealizations that arise in the Aharonov–Bohm effect are presented. It is argued that a common topological approach, which takes the non-simply connected electron configuration space to be an essential element in the explanation and understanding of the effect, is flawed. An alternative approach is outlined. Consequently, it is shown that the existence and uniqueness of self-adjoint extensions of symmetric operators in quantum mechanics have important implications for philosophical issues. Also, the alleged indispensable explanatory role of (...)
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  46. Critical Citizens or Paranoid Nutcases: On the Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories.Daniel Cohnitz - 2017 - Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen.
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  47. Does the Counterfactual Theory of Explanation Apply to Non-Causal Explanations in Metaphysics?Alexander Reutlinger - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 7 (2):239-256.
    In the recent philosophy of explanation, a growing attention to and discussion of non-causal explanations has emerged, as there seem to be compelling examples of non-causal explanations in the sciences, in pure mathematics, and in metaphysics. I defend the claim that the counterfactual theory of explanation captures the explanatory character of both non-causal scientific and metaphysical explanations. According to the CTE, scientific and metaphysical explanations are explanatory by virtue of revealing counterfactual dependencies between the explanandum and the explanans. I support (...)
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  48. Is Mathematics a Domain for Philosophers of Explanation?Erik Weber & Joachim Frans - 2017 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 48 (1):125-142.
    In this paper we discuss three interrelated questions. First: is explanation in mathematics a topic that philosophers of mathematics can legitimately investigate? Second: are the specific aims that philosophers of mathematical explanation set themselves legitimate? Finally: are the models of explanation developed by philosophers of science useful tools for philosophers of mathematical explanation? We argue that the answer to all these questions is positive. Our views are completely opposite to the views that Mark Zelcer has put forward recently. Throughout this (...)
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  49. Do Renormalization Group Explanations Conform to the Commonality Strategy?Alexander Reutlinger - 2017 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 48 (1):143-150.
    Renormalization group explanations account for the astonishing phenomenon that microscopically very different physical systems display the same macro-behavior when undergoing phase-transitions. Among philosophers, this explanandum phenomenon is often described as the occurrence of a particular kind of multiply realized macro-behavior. In several recent publications, Robert Batterman denies that RG explanations account for this explanandum phenomenon by following the commonality strategy, i.e. by identifying properties that microscopically very different physical systems have in common. Arguing against Batterman’s claim, I defend the view (...)
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  50. The Causal Metaphor Account of Metaphysical Explanation.Jonathan Shaheen - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (3):553-578.
    This paper argues that the semantic facts about ‘because’ are best explained via a metaphorical treatment of metaphysical explanation that treats causal explanation as explanation par excellence. Along the way, it defends a commitment to a unified causal sense of ‘because’ and offers a proprietary explanation of grounding skepticism. With the causal metaphor account of metaphysical explanation on the table, an extended discussion of the relationship between conceptual structure and metaphysics ends with a suggestion that the semantic facts about ‘because’ (...)
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