Complements, not competitors: causal and mathematical explanations

Authors
Holly Andersen
Simon Fraser University
Abstract
A finer-grained delineation of a given explanandum reveals a nexus of closely related causal and non- causal explanations, complementing one another in ways that yield further explanatory traction on the phenomenon in question. By taking a narrower construal of what counts as a causal explanation, a new class of distinctively mathematical explanations pops into focus; Lange’s characterization of distinctively mathematical explanations can be extended to cover these. This new class of distinctively mathematical explanations is illustrated with the Lotka-Volterra equations. There are at least two distinct ways those equations might hold of a system, one of which yields straightforwardly causal explanations, but the other of which yields explanations that are distinctively mathematical in terms of nomological strength. In the first, one first picks out a system or class of systems, finds that the equations hold in a causal -explanatory way; in the second, one starts with the equations and explanations that must apply to any system of which the equations hold, and only then turns to the world to see of what, if any, systems it does in fact hold. Using this new way in which a model might hold of a system, I highlight four specific avenues by which causal and non- causal explanations can complement one another
Keywords explanation  causal  non-causal  mathematical  models  Lotka-Volterra
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2016, 2017
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axw023
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?Marc Lange - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):485-511.
Minimal Model Explanations.Robert W. Batterman & Collin C. Rice - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (3):349-376.
Mathematical Explanation in Science.Alan Baker - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633.
On the Explanatory Role of Mathematics in Empirical Science.Robert Batterman - 2008 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1):1-25.

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Directionality of Distinctively Mathematical Explanations.Carl F. Craver & Mark Povich - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 63:31-38.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?Marc Lange - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):485-511.
Non-Committal Causal Explanations.David Pineda - 2010 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 24 (2):147-170.
Causal Patterns and Adequate Explanations.Angela Potochnik - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1163-1182.
Forms of Causal Explanation.Erik Weber, Jeroen Van Bouwel & Robrecht Vanderbeeken - 2005 - Foundations of Science 10 (4):437-454.
Understanding Science: Why Causes Are Not Enough.Ruth Berger - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (2):306-332.
How Can Causal Explanations Explain?Jon Williamson - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (2):257-275.
A Defense of a Unificationist Theory of Explanation.Rebecca Schweder - 2005 - Foundations of Science 10 (4):421-435.
Abstract Explanations in Science.Christopher Pincock - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (4):857-882.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2015-11-21

Total downloads
210 ( #23,279 of 2,241,497 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
44 ( #8,631 of 2,241,497 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature