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Symmetries and Explanatory Dependencies in Physics

In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 185-205 (2018)

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  1. Mathematics and Explanatory Generality: Nothing but Cognitive Salience.Juha Saatsi & Robert Knowles - 2021 - Erkenntnis 86 (5):1119-1137.
    We demonstrate how real progress can be made in the debate surrounding the enhanced indispensability argument. Drawing on a counterfactual theory of explanation, well-motivated independently of the debate, we provide a novel analysis of ‘explanatory generality’ and how mathematics is involved in its procurement. On our analysis, mathematics’ sole explanatory contribution to the procurement of explanatory generality is to make counterfactual information about physical dependencies easier to grasp and reason with for creatures like us. This gives precise content to key (...)
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  • The Function of Boundary Conditions in the Physical Sciences.Julia R. S. Bursten - 2021 - Philosophy of Science 88 (2):234-257.
    Early philosophical accounts of explanation mistook the function of boundary conditions for that of contingent facts. I diagnose where this misunderstanding arose and establish that it persists. I...
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  • Taking Reductionism to the Limit: How to Rebut the Antireductionist Argument From Infinite Limits.Juha Saatsi & Alexander Reutlinger - 2017 - Philosophy of Science (3):455-482.
    This paper analyses the anti-reductionist argument from renormalisation group explanations of universality, and shows how it can be rebutted if one assumes that the explanation in question is captured by the counterfactual dependence account of explanation.
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  • Challenges Facing Counterfactual Accounts of Explanation in Mathematics.Marc Lange - forthcoming - Philosophia Mathematica:nkab023.
    ABSTRACT Some mathematical proofs explain why the theorems they prove hold. This paper identifies several challenges for any counterfactual account of explanation in mathematics. The paper presumes that countermathematicals can be nontrivial. It argues that nevertheless, a counterfactual account portrays explanatory power as too easy to achieve, does not capture explanatory asymmetry, and fails to specify why certain proofs are explanatory and others are not. Greater informativeness about counterfactual dependence can even yield less explanatory power.
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  • A Defence of Manipulationist Noncausal Explanation: The Case for Intervention Liberalism.Nicholas Emmerson - forthcoming - Erkenntnis.
    Recent years have seen growing interest in modifying interventionist accounts of causal explanation in order to characterise noncausal explanation. However, one surprising element of such accounts is that they have typically jettisoned the core feature of interventionism: interventions. Indeed, the prevailing opinion within the philosophy of science literature suggests that interventions exclusively demarcate causal relationships. This position is so prevalent that, until now, no one has even thought to name it. We call it “intervention puritanism” (I-puritanism, for short). In this (...)
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  • The Prospects for a Monist Theory of Non-Causal Explanation in Science and Mathematics.Alexander Reutlinger, Mark Colyvan & Karolina Krzyżanowska - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-21.
    We explore the prospects of a monist account of explanation for both non-causal explanations in science and pure mathematics. Our starting point is the counterfactual theory of explanation (CTE) for explanations in science, as advocated in the recent literature on explanation. We argue that, despite the obvious differences between mathematical and scientific explanation, the CTE can be extended to cover both non-causal explanations in science and mathematical explanations. In particular, a successful application of the CTE to mathematical explanations requires us (...)
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  • Asymmetry as a Challenge to Counterfactual Accounts of Non-Causal Explanation.Marc Lange - 2019 - Synthese 198 (4):3893-3918.
    This paper examines some recent attempts that use counterfactuals to understand the asymmetry of non-causal scientific explanations. These attempts recognize that even when there is explanatory asymmetry, there may be symmetry in counterfactual dependence. Therefore, something more than mere counterfactual dependence is needed to account for explanatory asymmetry. Whether that further ingredient, even if applicable to causal explanation, can fit non-causal explanation is the challenge that explanatory asymmetry poses for counterfactual accounts of non-causal explanation. This paper argues that several recent (...)
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  • Scientific Realism Meets Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics.Juha Saatsi - 2017 - In Philosophers Think About Quantum Theory.
    I examine the epistemological debate on scientific realism in the context of quantum physics, focusing on the empirical underdetermin- ation of different formulations and interpretations of QM. I will argue that much of the interpretational, metaphysical work on QM tran- scends the kinds of realist commitments that are well-motivated in the light of the history of science. I sketch a way of demarcating empirically well-confirmed aspects of QM from speculative quantum metaphysics in a way that coheres with anti-realist evidence from (...)
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  • Realism and Explanatory Perspectivism.Juha Saatsi - forthcoming - In Michela Massimi & C. D. McCoy (eds.), Understanding Perspectivism: Scientific Challenges and Methodological Prospects. New York: Routledge.
    This chapter defends a (minimal) realist conception of progress in scientific understanding in the face of the ubiquitous plurality of perspectives in science. The argument turns on the counterfactual-dependence framework of explanation and understanding, which is illustrated and evidenced with reference to different explanations of the rainbow.
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  • A Pluralist Account of Non-Causal Explanation in Science and Mathematics: Marc Lange: Because Without Cause: Non-Causal Explanation in Science and Mathematics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, Xxii+489pp, $74.00 HB.Juha Saatsi - 2018 - Metascience 27 (1):3-9.
    Contribution to a review symposium on Marc Lange's Because without cause: Non-causal explanation in science and mathematics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
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  • Counterfactuals and Explanatory Pluralism.Kareem Khalifa, Gabriel Doble & Jared Millson - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (4):1439-1460.
    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.
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