Prediction and Explanation in Historical Natural Science

Abstract
In earlier work ( Cleland [2001] , [2002]), I sketched an account of the structure and justification of ‘prototypical’ historical natural science that distinguishes it from ‘classical’ experimental science. This article expands upon this work, focusing upon the close connection between explanation and justification in the historical natural sciences. I argue that confirmation and disconfirmation in these fields depends primarily upon the explanatory (versus predictive or retrodictive) success or failure of hypotheses vis-à-vis empirical evidence. The account of historical explanation that I develop is a version of common cause explanation. Common cause explanation has long been vindicated by appealing to the principle of the common cause. Many philosophers of science (e.g., Sober and Tucker) find this principle problematic, however, because they believe that it is either purely methodological or strictly metaphysical. I defend a third possibility: the principle of the common cause derives its justification from a physically pervasive time asymmetry of causation (a.k.a. the asymmetry of overdetermination). I argue that explicating the principle of the common cause in terms of the asymmetry of overdetermination illuminates some otherwise puzzling features of the practices of historical natural scientists
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axq024
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References found in this work BETA
Dimensions of Scientific Law.Sandra D. Mitchell - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (2):242-265.
Testing Times: Regularities in the Historical Sciences.Ben Jeffares - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 39 (4):469-475.
Terra Incognita: Explanation and Reduction in Earth Science.Maarten G. Kleinhans, Chris J. J. Buskes & Henk W. de Regt - 2005 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 19 (3):289 – 317.

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Citations of this work BETA
Model Organisms Are Not Models.Arnon Levy & Adrian Currie - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):327-348.
The Value of Epistemic Disagreement in Scientific Practice. The Case of Homo Floresiensis.Cruz Helen De & Smedt Johan De - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (2):169-177.
Dimensions of Integration in Interdisciplinary Explanations of the Origin of Evolutionary Novelty.Alan C. Love & Gary L. Lugar - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):537-550.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

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