Representing and Explaining: The Eikonic Conception of Scientific Explanation

Philosophy of Science (5):793-805 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The ontic conception of explanation, according to which explanations are "full-bodied things in the world," is fundamentally misguided. I argue instead for what I call the eikonic conception, according to which explanations are the product of an epistemic activity involving representations of the phenomena to be explained. What is explained in the first instance is a particular conceptualization of the explanandum phenomenon, contextualized within a given research program or explanatory project. I conclude that this eikonic conception has a number of benefits, including making better sense of scientific practice and allowing for the full range of normative constraints on explanation.

Similar books and articles

The ontic conception of scientific explanation.Cory Wright - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 54:20-30.
Mechanistic explanation without the ontic conception.Cory D. Wright - 2012 - European Journal of Philosophy of Science 2 (3):375-394.
Causal patterns and adequate explanations.Angela Potochnik - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1163-1182.
The directionality of distinctively mathematical explanations.Carl F. Craver & Mark Povich - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 63:31-38.
Explanation in the Semantic Conception of Theory Structure.Paul Thompson - 1988 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988:286 - 296.
Minimal Models and the Generalized Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation.Mark Povich - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (1):117-137.
Explaining understanding (or understanding explanation).Wesley Van Camp - 2014 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 4 (1):95-114.
What Good Is an Explanation?Peter Lipton - 2001 - In G. Hon & S. Rakover (eds.), Explanation. Springer Verlag. pp. 43-59.
Scientific Explanation: Three Basic Conceptions.Wesley C. Salmon - 1984 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:293 - 305.


Added to PP

959 (#12,444)

6 months
117 (#25,742)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Alisa Bokulich
Boston University

Citations of this work

Why Mary Left Her Room.Michaela M. McSweeney - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Debunking Logical Ground: Distinguishing Metaphysics from Semantics.Michaela Markham McSweeney - 2020 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 6 (2):156-170.
Viewing-as explanations and ontic dependence.William D’Alessandro - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (3):769-792.
Backing Without Realism.Elanor Taylor - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (3):1295-1315.

View all 20 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Explaining the brain: mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience.Carl F. Craver - 2007 - New York : Oxford University Press,: Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
Explanation: a mechanist alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.

View all 20 references / Add more references