Explanatory Pluralism and Complementarity: From Autonomy to Integration

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (3):314-333 (2008)
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Abstract

Philosophers of the social sciences are increasingly convinced that macro-and micro-explanations are complementary. Whereas macro-explanations are broad, micro-explanations are deep. I distinguish between weak and strong complementarity: Strongly complementary explanations improve one another when integrated, weakly complementary explanations do not. To demonstrate the explanatory autonomy of different levels of explanation, explanatory pluralists mostly presuppose the weak form of complementarity. By scrutinizing the notions of explanatory depth and breadth, I argue that macro- and micro-accounts of the same phenomenon are more often strongly complementary. This invites a revision of the pluralist position in which integration promotes explanatory progress.

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Caterina Marchionni
University of Helsinki