Positing levels of explanation has played an important role in philosophy of science. This facilitated the advocacy of antireductionism of explanations, which, at its most basic, is the idea that scientific explanations citing large (i.e. non-microphysical) entities will persist. The idea that explanations come in levels captures important features of explanatory practices, and it also does well at helping to define different positions one might take regarding explanatory reductionism or antireductionism. Yet the idea that explanations come in levels has also (...) led philosophers astray. This systematically misconstrues the relationship different explanations bear to one another, suggests candidate explanations are less numerous than they in fact are, and occludes recognition of how the selection of explanations can vary across research projects. Antireductionists about explanation should move on from talk of levels. Or so I will argue. (shrink)
Some theorists of normative explanation argue that we can make sense of debates between first-order moral theories such as consequentialism and its rivals only if we understand their explanations of why the right acts are right and the wrong acts are wrong as generative (e.g. grounding) explanations. Others argue that the standard form of normative explanation is, instead, some kind of unification. Neither sort of explanatory monism can account for all the explanations of particular moral facts that moral theorists seek (...) to state and defend. This paper argues that we can do better if we accept normative explanatory pluralism, the view that at least some particular explananda in normative inquiry have more than one type of correct complete explanation. Such pluralism is supported by what goes on in actual moral inquiry, parallels an independently plausible form of pluralism about scientific explanation, and can offer principled responses to central objections. (shrink)
In this article, I consider an important challenge to the popular theory of scientific inference commonly known as ‘inference to the best explanation’, one that has received scant attention.1 1 The problem is that there exists a wide array of rival models of explanation, thus leaving IBE objectionably indeterminate. First, I briefly introduce IBE. Then, I motivate the problem and offer three potential solutions, the most plausible of which is to adopt a kind of pluralism about the rival models of (...) explanation. However, I argue that how ranking explanations on this pluralistic account of IBE remains obscure and pluralism leads to contradictory results. In light of these objections, I attempt to dissolve the problem by showing why IBE does not require a ‘model’ of explanation and by giving an account of what explanation consists in within the context of IBE. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that explaining cognitive behavior can be achieved through what I call hybrid explanatory inferences: inferences that posit mechanisms, but also draw on observed regularities. Moreover, these inferences can be used to achieve unification, in the sense developed by Allen Newel in his work on cognitive architectures. Thus, it seems that explanatory pluralism and unification do not rule out each other in cognitive science, but rather that the former represents a way to achieve the latter.
The debate between the defenders of explanatory unification and explanatory pluralism has been ongoing from the beginning of cognitive science and is one of the central themes of its philosophy. Does cognitive science need a grand unifying theory? Should explanatory pluralism be embraced instead? Or maybe local integrative efforts are needed? What are the advantages of explanatory unification as compared to the benefits of explanatory pluralism? These questions, among others, are addressed in this Synthese’s special issue. In the introductory paper, (...) we discuss the background of the questions, distinguishing integrative theorizing from building unified theories. On the one hand, integrative efforts involve collaboration between various disciplines, fields, approaches, or theories. These efforts could even be quite temporary, without establishing any long-term institutionalized fields or disciplines, but could also contribute to developing new interfield theories. On the other hand, unification can rely on developing complete theories of mechanisms and representations underlying all cognition, as Newell’s “unified theories of cognition”, or may appeal to grand principles, as predictive coding. Here, we also show that unification in contemporary cognitive science goes beyond reductive unity, and may involve various forms of joint efforts and division of explanatory labor. This conclusion is one of the themes present in the content of contributions constituting the special issue. (shrink)
Recent research in philosophy of science has shown that scientists rely on a plurality of strategies to develop successful explanations of different types of phenomena. In the case of biology, most of these strategies go far beyond the traditional and reductionistic models of scientific explanation that have proven so successful in the fundamental sciences. Concretely, in the last two decades, philosophers of science have discovered the existence of at least two different types of scientific explanation at work in the biological (...) sciences, namely: mechanistic and structural explanations. Despite the growing evidence about the radically different nature of these two types of explanation, no inquiry has been conducted to date to determine the ontological reasons that might underlie these differences, nor the way in which these types of explanations can be systematically related with each other. Here, we aim to cover this gap by connecting this plurality of research strategies with the existence of emergent levels of reality. We argue that the existence of these different—and apparently incompatible—explanatory strategies to account for biological phenomena derives from the existence of “ontological jumps” in nature, which generate different regimes of causation that in turn demand the development of different explanatory frameworks. We identify two of these strategies—mechanistic modelling and network modelling—and connect them to the existence of two ontological regimes of causation. Finally, we relate them with each other in a systematic way. In this vein, our paper provides an ontological justification for the plurality of explanatory strategies that we see in the life sciences. (shrink)
Pluralism is widely appealed to in many areas of philosophy of science, though what is meant by ‘pluralism’ may profoundly vary. Because explanations of behaviour have been a favoured target for pluralistic theses, the sciences of behaviour offer a rich context in which to further investigate pluralism. This is what the topical collection The Biology of Behaviour: Explanatory pluralism across the life sciences is about. In the present introduction, we briefly review major strands of pluralist theses and their motivations. We (...) highlight three distinct types of pluralisms—type pluralism, fragmentation pluralism and insular pluralism—and introduce the articles of the topical collection. (shrink)
The concept of explanation is central to scientific practice. However, scientists explain phenomena in very different ways. That is, there are many different kinds of explanation; e.g. causal, mechanistic, statistical, or equilibrium explanations. In light of the myriad kinds of explanation identified in the literature, most philosophers of science have adopted some kind of explanatory pluralism. While pluralism about explanation seems plausible, it faces a dilemma Explanation beyond causation, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 39–56, 2018). Either there is nothing that (...) unifies all instances of scientific explanation that makes them count as explanations, or there is some set of unifying features, which seems incompatible with explanatory pluralism. Different philosophers have adopted different horns of this dilemma. Some argue that no unified account of explanation is possible. Others suggest that there is a set of necessary features that can unify all explanations under a single account Explanation beyond causation, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 74–95, 2018; Strevens in Depth: an account of scientific explanation, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2008). In this paper, we argue that none of the features identified by existing accounts of explanation are necessary for all explanations. However, we argue that a unified account can still be provided that accommodates pluralism. This can be accomplished, we argue, by reconceiving of scientific explanation as a cluster concept: there are multiple subsets of features that are sufficient for providing an explanation, but no single feature is necessary for all explanations. Reconceiving of explanation as a cluster concept not only accounts for the diversity of kinds of explanations, but also accounts for the widespread disagreement in the explanation literature and enables explanatory pluralism to avoid Pincock’s dilemma. (shrink)
In the New Mechanist literature, most attention has focused on the compositional explanation of processes/activities of wholes by processes/activities of their parts. These are sometimes called “constitutive mechanistic explanations.” In this paper, we defend moving beyond this focus to a Pluralism about compositional explanation by highlighting two additional species of such explanations. We illuminate both Analytic compositional explanations that explain a whole using a compositional relation to its parts, and also Standing compositional explanations that explain a property of a whole (...) using a compositional relation to the properties of its parts. We also highlight how adopting a Pluralism about compositional explanations justifies a more Pluralist view of the ontological posits of such explanations and opens up a range of new research questions. (shrink)
Explaining the behaviour of ecosystems is one of the key challenges for the biological sciences. Since 2000, new-mechanicism has been the main model to account for the nature of scientific explanation in biology. The universality of the new-mechanist view in biology has been however put into question due to the existence of explanations that account for some biological phenomena in terms of their mathematical properties (mathematical explanations). Supporters of mathematical explanation have argued that the explanation of the behaviour of ecosystems (...) is usually provided in terms of their mathematical properties, and not in mechanistic terms. They have intensively studied the explanation of the properties of ecosystems that behave following the rules of a non-random network. However, no attention has been devoted to the study of the nature of the explanation in those that form a random network. In this paper, we cover that gap by analysing the explanation of the stability behaviour of the microbiome recently elaborated by Coyte and colleagues, to determine whether it fits with the model of explanation suggested by the new-mechanist or by the defenders of mathematical explanation. Our analysis of this case study supports three theses: (1) that the explanation is not given solely in terms of mechanisms, as the new-mechanists understand the concept; (2) that the mathematical properties that describe the system play an essential explanatory role, but they do not exhaust the explanation; (3) that a non-previously identified appeal to the type of interactions that the entities in the network can exhibit, as well as their abundance, is also necessary for Coyte and colleagues’ account to be fully explanatory. From the combination of these three theses we argue for the necessity of an integrative pluralist view of the nature of behaviour explanation when this is given by appealing to the existence of a random network. (shrink)
Genetic explanation of complex human behavior presents an excellent test case for pluralism. Although philosophers agree that successful scientific investigation of behavior is pluralistic, there remains disagreement regarding integration and elimination—is the plurality of approaches here to stay, or merely a waystation on the road to monism? In this paper we introduce an issue taken very seriously by scientists yet mostly ignored by philosophers—the missing heritability problem—and assess its implications for disagreement among pluralists. We argue that the missing heritability problem, (...) which isn’t going anywhere any time soon, implies that pluralism in behavior genetics is both practically ineliminative and theoretically non-integrative. (shrink)
Debate about cognitive science explanations has been formulated in terms of identifying the proper level(s) of explanation. Views range from reductionist, favoring only neuroscience explanations, to mechanist, favoring the integration of multiple levels, to pluralist, favoring the preservation of even the most general, high-level explanations, such as those provided by embodied or dynamical approaches. In this paper, we challenge this framing. We suggest that these are not different levels of explanation at all but, rather, different styles of explanation that capture (...) different, cross-cutting patterns in cognitive phenomena. Which pattern is explanatory depends on both the cognitive phenomenon under investigation and the research interests occasioning the explanation. This reframing changes how we should answer the basic questions of which cognitive science approaches explain and how these explanations relate to one another. On this view, we should expect different approaches to offer independent explanations in terms of their different focal patterns and the value of those explanations to partly derive from the broad patterns they feature. (shrink)
Optimality models are widely used in different parts of biology. Two important questions that have been asked about such models are: are they explanatory and, if so, what type of explanations do they offer? My concern in this paper is with the approach of Rice (2012, 2015) and Irvine (2015), who claim that these models provide non-causal explanations. I argue that there are serious problems with this approach and with the accounts of explanation it is intended to justify. The idea (...) behind this undertaking is to draw attention to an important issue associated with the recent pluralist stance on explanation: the rampant proliferation of theories of explanation. This proliferation supports a pluralist perspective on explanation, and pluralism encourages such a proliferation. But, if we are not careful about how we arrive at and how we justify new accounts of explanation — i.e., if we do not try to avoid the sort of problems discussed in this paper — we may end up trivializing the concept of explanation. (shrink)
Recent literature on non-causal explanation raises the question as to whether explanatory monism, the thesis that all explanations submit to the same analysis, is true. The leading monist proposal holds that all explanations support change-relating counterfactuals. We provide several objections to this monist position. 1Introduction2Change-Relating Monism's Three Problems3Dependency and Monism: Unhappy Together4Another Challenge: Counterfactual Incidentalism4.1High-grade necessity4.2Unity in diversity5Conclusion.
Feyerabend is well-known as a pluralist, and notorious for his defences of, and sympathetic references to, heterodox subjects, such as parapsychology. Focusing on the latter, I ask how we should understand the relationship between the pluralism and the defences, drawing on Marcello Truzzi's and Martin Gardner's remarks on Feyerabend along the way.
We are all philosophers and we develop our own philosophy by exchanging views and arguments. The dialogue form is and should remain the principal form of philosophizing, since ideas, like butterflies, do not merely exist – they develop. This is certainly the case in actual philosophical interaction, and it can be the case in written philosophical exposition. The book consists of a dialogue between two interlocutors, Philip and a student, who discuss about the philosophical theory of explanation. It is situated (...) on Cape Sounion, near Athens where the two interlocutors enjoy the view over the Aegean Sea. An initial exchange of arguments leads to a dialogue unfolding the panorama of the contemporary philosophical theory of explanation. The second part of the dialogue is devoted to an exchange of arguments on explanatory pluralism as a novel approach to the philosophical theory of explanation. Historical cases are discussed as well as the ways in which explanatory progress in science can be attained. (shrink)
Cet ouvrage est la version anglaise d’un ouvrage paru initialement en français en 2013 sous le titre Pluralisme scientifique. Enjeux épistémiques et métaphysiques, qui a reçu jusqu’ici un accueil assez favorable. L’auteure y explore le thème de la pluralité dans trois grands registres de la philosophie des sciences : d’abord celui de la méthodologie scientifique (chapitre 1), ensuite celui des relations interthéoriques ou du réductionnisme (chapitre 2), et, enfin, celui de la représentation (chapitre 3). La grande diversité des sujets qui (...) appellent un positionnement en faveur du monisme ou du pluralisme en philosophie des sciences fait en sorte qu’il serait vain de penser que l’on puisse de nos jours se dire pluraliste tout court (p. xiv). Pour cette raison, l’auteure se contente d’examiner les diverses formes de pluralismes mises en avant par les philosophes dans chacun des registres mentionnés ci-dessus en portant un regard critique sur leurs conséquences méthodologiques, épistémiques et métaphysiques, en adoptant le point de vue de la pratique scientifique effective. (shrink)
Explanatory realism is the position that all explanations give information about whatever metaphysically determines the explanandum. This view is popular and plays a central role in metaphysics, but in this paper I argue that explanatory realism is false. In Sect. 1 I introduce explanatory realism in its weak and strong versions, and discuss the argumentative work that explanatory realism is used for in contemporary metaphysics. In Sect. 2 I present a series of problem cases for explanatory realism, including explanation by (...) analogy, explanations involving rules, reduction ad absurdum explanations and certain statistical explanations. In Sect. 3 I consider and reject two modified versions of explanatory realism: the position that explanatory realism is true only of explanation in metaphysics, and the position that determinative explanation is the most complete form of explanation. In conclusion I consider explanatory antirealism and explanatory pluralism as alternatives to explanatory realism. (shrink)
Pluralism has many meanings. An assessment of the need for logical pluralism with respect to scientific knowledge requires insights in its domain of application. So first a specific form of epistemic pluralism will be defended. Knowledge turns out a patchwork of knowledge chunks. These serve descriptive as well as evaluative functions, may have competitors within the knowledge system, interact with each other, and display a characteristic dynamics caused by new information as well as by mutual readjustment. Logics play a role (...) in the organization of the chunks, in their applications and in the exchange of information between them. Epistemic pluralism causes a specific form of logical pluralism. Against this background, the occurrence of inconsistencies will be discussed together with required reactions and systematic ways to explicate them. Finally, the place of inconsistencies in the sciences will be considered. Seven theses will be proposed and argued for. The implications of each of these for pluralism will be considered. The general tenet is that paraconsistency plays an important role, bound to become more explicit in the future, but that the occurrence of inconsistencies does not basically affect the need for pluralism. (shrink)
This paper brings together results from the philosophy and the psychology of explanation to argue that there are multiple concepts of explanation in human psychology. Specifically, it is shown that pluralism about explanation coheres with the multiplicity of models of explanation available in the philosophy of science, and it is supported by evidence from the psychology of explanatory judgment. Focusing on the case of a norm of explanatory power, the paper concludes by responding to the worry that if there is (...) a plurality of concepts of explanation, one will not be able to normatively evaluate what counts as good explanation. (shrink)
Courtesy of its free energy formulation, the hierarchical predictive processing theory of the brain (PTB) is often claimed to be a grand unifying theory. To test this claim, we examine a central case: activity of mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic (DA) systems. After reviewing the three most prominent hypotheses of DA activity—the anhedonia, incentive salience, and reward prediction error hypotheses—we conclude that the evidence currently vindicates explanatory pluralism. This vindication implies that the grand unifying claims of advocates of PTB are unwarranted. More generally, (...) we suggest that the form of scientific progress in the cognitive sciences is unlikely to be a single overarching grand unifying theory. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Jakob Hohwy argues that the emerging predictive processing perspective on cognition requires us to explain cognitive functioning in purely internalistic and neurocentric terms. The purpose of the present paper is to challenge the view that PP entails a wholesale rejection of positions that are interested in the embodied, embedded, extended, or enactive dimensions of cognitive processes. I will argue that Hohwy’s argument from analogy, which forces an evidentiary boundary into the picture, lacks the argumentative resources to (...) make a convincing case for the conceptual necessity to interpret PP in solely internalistic terms. For this reason, I will reconsider the postulation and explanatory role of the evidentiary boundary. I will arrive at an account of prediction error minimization and its foundation on the free energy principle that is fully consistent with approaches to cognition that emphasize the embodied and interactive properties of cognitive processes. This gives rise to the suggestion that explanatory pluralism about the application of PP is to be preferred over Hohwy’s explanatory monism that follows from his internalistic and neurocentric view of predictive cognitive systems. (shrink)
Many epistemologists take Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) to be “fundamental.” For instance, Lycan (1988, 128) writes that “all justified reasoning is fundamentally explanatory reasoning.” Conee and Feldman (2008, 97) concur: “fundamental epistemic principles are principles of best explanation.” Call them fundamentalists. They assert that nothing deeper could justify IBE, as is typically assumed of rules of deductive inference, such as modus ponens. However, logicians account for modus ponens with the valuation rule for the material conditional. By contrast, fundamentalists (...) account for IBE with an ill-defined set of relations that happen to furnish their favorite set of inductive inferences. To our eye, this seems a little too convenient—there is too much room for ad hoc, just-so stories about the “striking” correspondence between our explanatory and inductive practices. We will argue that the (explanatory) pluralism adopted by the leading theorists of the best explanation—philosophers of science—undermines fundamentalism. Section 1 clarifies fundamentalism’s key tenets. Section 2 presents pluralism’s challenge to fundamentalism. Section 3 considers a potential fundamentalist reply to this challenge. Sections 4 through 6 canvass the leading candidates for developing this fundamentalist reply, showing each to be unsatisfactory. (shrink)
An argument recently proposed by Chirimuuta seems to motivate the rejection of the claims that every neurocognitive phenomenon can have a mechanistic explanation and that every neurocognitive explanation is mechanistic. In this paper, I focus on efficient coding models involving the so-called “canonical neural computations” and argue that although they imply some form of pluralism, they are compatible with two mechanistic generalizations: all neurocognitive explanations are mechanistic; and all neurocognitive phenomena that have an explanation have a purely mechanistic explanation.
About 540 million years ago, a rapid radiation of animal phyla radically changed the Earth’s biota in a geological eye-blink. What caused this “Cambrian explosion”? Over the years, paleontologists have pointed to a wide array of different physical mechanisms as the causal “trigger” for the explosion. More recently, some paleontologists have proposed complex causal pathways to which multiple physical mechanisms are said to have contributed. Despite their variety, these answers share an assumption that a single explanation can in principle be (...) constructed that identifies some factor or confluence of factors as the cause of the Cambrian explosion. That assumption is unjustifiable. The Cambrian explosion had multiple causes, and different aspects of the event are best explained by different causes. These different causes cannot, even in principle, be integrated into a single causal explanation. We can learn much about the causes of the Cambrian explosiondor for that matter about any historical eventdbut only by attending more carefully to how we frame our causal questions about the past. (shrink)
This paper argues that there is no single universal conception of scientific explanation that is consistently employed throughout the whole domain of Higgs physics—ranging from the successful experimental search for a standard model Higgs particle and the hitherto unsuccessful searches for any particles beyond the standard model, to phenomenological model builders in the Higgs sector and theoretical physicists interested in how the core principles of quantum field theory apply to spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs mechanism. Yet the coexistence of (...) deductive-statistical, unificationist, model-based, and statistical-relevance explanations does not amount to a fragmentation of the discipline, but allows elementary particle physicists to simultaneously pursue a plurality of research strategies and keep the field together by joint convictions about the SM and shared explanatory ideals. These convictions include that the SM both represents a successful explanation of the available particle data and contains aspects in need of further explanation. Especially in the domain of BSM physics, explanatory ideals typically appear as stories motivating the different models and linking them to the whole of the discipline. (shrink)
The past decade has witnessed a growing awareness of conceptual and methodological hurdles within psychology and neuroscience that must be addressed for taxonomic and explanatory progress in understanding psychological functions to be possible. In this paper, I evaluate several recent knowledge-building initiatives aimed at overcoming these obstacles. I argue that while each initiative offers important insights about how to facilitate taxonomic and explanatory progress in psychology and neuroscience, only a “coordinated pluralism” that incorporates positive aspects of each initiative will have (...) the potential for success. (shrink)
The scientific investigation of music requires contributions from a diverse array of disciplines. Given the diverse methodologies, interests and research targets of the disciplines involved, we argue that there is a plurality of legitimate research questions about music, necessitating a focus on integration. In light of this we recommend a pluralistic conception of music—that there is no unitary definition divorced from some discipline, research question or context. This has important implications for how the scientific study of music ought to proceed: (...) we show that some definitions are complementary, that is, they reflect different research interests and ought to be retained and, where possible, integrated, while others are antagonistic, they represent real empirical disagreement about music’s nature and how to account for it. We illustrate this in discussion of two related issues: questions about the evolutionary function of music, and questions of the innateness of music. These debates have been, in light of pluralism, misconceived. We suggest that, in both cases, scientists ought to proceed by constructing integrated models which take into account the dynamic interaction between different aspects of music. (shrink)
Upshot: We agree with commenters that enactivism incorporates a broad variety of methodologies, metaphysical stances, concepts, and investigative approaches, and that this is a good thing. However, we remain concerned that autonomy and sense-making are problematic concepts for post-Varelian enactivism, and that they form the foundations of a conceptual framework that may hamper the development of effective explanations for cognitive activity, as well as the paradigmatic aspirations of this particular enactivist approach.
Cognitive and social sciences such as psychology and sociology are often described as immature sciences. But what is immaturity? According to the received view, immaturity is disunity, where disunity can usefully be cashed out in terms of having a plurality of disunified frameworks in play, where these frameworks consist of concepts, theories, goals, practices, methods, criteria for what counts as a good explanation, etc. However, there are some reasons to think that the cognitive and social sciences should be disunified in (...) this sense. If that is right, either these sciences should remain immature, or we need a new account of immaturity. The former option is unappealing. I therefore provide an alternative account of immaturity, based on Dudley Shapere’s work on the internal/external distinction. I then go on to use this account to argue against the imposition of unification on the cognitive and social sciences. Acceptance of disunity may be the route to maturity, rather than a sign of immaturity. (shrink)
The paper looks at challenges related to the ideas of integration and knowledge systems in extra-academic transdisciplinarity. Philosophers of science are only starting to pay attention to the increasingly common practice of introducing extra-academic perspectives or engaging extra-academic parties in academic knowledge production. So far the rather scant philosophical discussion on the subject has mainly concentrated on the question whether such engagement is beneficial in science or not. Meanwhile, there is quite a large and growing literature on extra-academic TD, mostly (...) authored by non-philosophers, seeking to develop TD research practices. We examine this literature in the light of recent discussions in pluralist philosophies of science. Some philosophical pluralists see the increase of extra-academic collaboration and participation in science as a potentially positive development. However, certain views promoted in the non-philosophical literature on extra-academic TD appear problematic in the light of the pluralistic discussions. For instance, the literature on TD appears to be overly optimistic with regard to integration, and the notion of knowledge systems used in it is problematic. We believe it would be worthwhile for scientific pluralists sympathetic to the aims of TD to look more closely into the complex settings in which extra-academic collaboration and participation happens in actual TD projects, and to offer constructive criticisms, exploiting insights developed within pluralist philosophy of science. (shrink)
I argue that the distinction between monism and pluralism about well-being should be understood in terms of explanation: the monist affirms (but the pluralist denies) that whenever two particular things are basically good for you, the explanation of their basic goodness for you is the same. I then consider a number of arguments for monism and a number of arguments for pluralism.
Explaining phenomena is one of the main activities in which scientists engage. This book proposes a new philosophical theory of scientific explanation by developing and defending the position of explanatory pluralism with the help of the notion of 'explanatory games'. Mantzavinos provides a descriptive account of the explanatory activity of scientists in different domains and shows how they differ from commonsensical explanations offered in everyday life by ordinary people and also from explanations offered in religious contexts. He also shows how (...) an evaluation and a critical appraisal of explanations put forward in different social arenas can take place on the basis of different values. Explanatory Pluralism provides solutions to all important descriptive and normative problems of the philosophical theory of explanation as illustrated in sophisticated case studies from economics and medicine, but also from mythology and religion. (shrink)
The author of “Evidence, Explanation, Enhanced Indispensability” advances a criticism to the Enhanced Indispensability Argument and the use of Inference to the Best Explanation in order to draw ontological conclusions from mathematical explanations in science. His argument relies on the availability of equivalent though competing explanations, and a pluralist stance on explanation. I discuss whether pluralism emerges as a stable position, and focus here on two main points: whether cases of equivalent explanations have been actually offered, and which ontological consequences (...) should follow from these. (shrink)
Explanation in biology has long been characterized as being very different from explanation in other scientific disciplines, very much so from explanation in physics. One of the reasons was the existence in biology of explanation types that were unheard of in the physical sciences: teleological explanations (e.g. Hull 1974), evolutionary explanations (e.g. Mayr 1988), or even functional explanations (e.g. Neander 1991). More recently, and owing much to the rise of molecular biology, biological explanations have been depicted as mechanisms (e.g; Machamer, (...) Darden and Craver 2000). The aim of this volume is to shed some new light on the diversity of explanation types in biology. What are the different types of explanation that occur in biology? Are these types of explanation specific to particular sub-disciplines of biology, or to particular types of problems across biology? How do they relate to each another? Do they compete with one another for answering the same questions? Or do they complement each other, providing insights to different questions? What are the reasons for such diversity? Can this diversity be overcome by a broader unifying model of explanation or is it more profound and irreducible? Why? This volume aims at making sense of this diversity of types of explanations that are found in biology, of their relationship with one another. After all, explanation in biology may prove not only different from explanation in the physical sciences, but also much more diverse than originally anticipated. (shrink)
In this article, we propose a pluralistic approach to the explanation of social understanding that integrates literature from social psychology with the theory of mind debate. Social understanding in everyday life is achieved in various ways. As a rule of thumb we propose that individuals make use of whatever procedure is cognitively least demanding to them in a given context. Aside from theory and simulation, associations of behaviors with familiar agents play a crucial role in social understanding. This role has (...) been neglected so far. We illustrate the roles of fluency and associations in social understanding in false belief tasks. (shrink)
There are three main approaches to scientific explanation in the philosophical literature. The unification approach claims that science explains by fitting the particular facts and events within a general theoretical framework. The mechanistic approach claims that science explains by identifying mechanisms. According to the manipulationist approach an explanation ought to be such that it can be used to answer a “what-if-things-had-been-different question.” The article examines whether these three approaches are compatible or not in the case of the social sciences, and (...) it concludes by defending explanatory pluralism. (shrink)
Scientific pluralism, a normative endorsement of the plurality or multiplicity of research approaches in science, has recently been advocated by several philosophers (e.g., Kellert et al. 2006, Kitcher 2001, Longino 2013, Mitchell 2009, and Chang 2010). Comparing these accounts of scientific pluralism, one will encounter quite some variation. We want to clarify the different interpretations of scientific pluralism by showing how they incarnate different models of democracy, stipulating the desired interaction among the plurality of research approaches in different ways. Furthermore, (...) the example of scientific pluralism is used to advocate the application of democratic theory to philosophy of science problems in general. Drawing on the parallels between models of science and models of democracy, we can articulate how the plurality of research approaches in science should interact within a democratic framework as well as how to cultivate multiple research approaches in the epistemically most productive way possible. This will not only improve our understanding of scientific plurality, but it can also help us stipulating how different research approaches should interact to constitute the most objective account possible or how the ideal of scientific consensus has to be understood. Ultimately, developing democratic models of science bears on the question of how deeply science and democracy are entwined. (shrink)
This paper uses formal Darwinism as elaborated by Alan Grafen to articulate an explanatory pluralism that casts light upon two strands of controversies running across evolutionary biology, viz., the place of organisms versus genes, and the role of adaptation. Formal Darwinism shows that natural selection can be viewed either physics-style, as a dynamics of alleles, or in the style of economics as an optimizing process. After presenting such pluralism, I argue first that whereas population genetics does not support optimization, optimality (...) can still be taken as a default hypothesis when modeling evolutionary processes; and second, that organisms have an explanatory role in evolutionary theory, since they are involved in the economic perspective of optimization. Finally, in order to ask whether the Modern Synthesis can indeed provide a theory of organisms, I apply a Kantian-inspired theoretical view of organisms (underlying much developmental modeling), according to which they are both designed entities and subjects of intrinsic circular processes involving the whole organism and its parts. I first show that the design aspect is accountable for in terms of the Modern Synthesis understood in the formal Darwinism framework. I then question whether the latter aspect of organisms can also be ultimately captured in the same framework, and to this purpose devise an empirical test relying on an assessment of the relative weight of genetic elements in developmental and functional gene regulatory networks. (shrink)