Understanding Brute Facts

Synthese 145 (3):449-466 (2005)
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Brute facts are facts that have no explanation. If we come to know that a fact is brute, we obviously don’t get an explanation of that fact. Nevertheless, we do make some sort of epistemic gain. In this essay, I give an account of that epistemic gain, and suggest that the idea of brute facts allows us to distinguish between the notion of explanation and the notion of understanding. I also discuss Eric Barnes’ (1994) attack on Friedman’s (1974) version of the uni-fication theory of explanation. The nification theory asserts that scientific understanding results from minimizing the number of brute facts that we have to accept in our view of he world. Barnes claims that the unification theory cannot do justice to he notion of being a brute fact, because it implies that brute facts are gaps in our understanding of the world. I defend Friedman’s theory against Barnes’ critique.



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Author's Profile

Ludwig Fahrbach
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

References found in this work

The Scientific Image by Bas C. van Fraassen. [REVIEW]Michael Friedman - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (5):274-283.
Explanation and scientific understanding.Michael Friedman - 1974 - Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):5-19.
Explanatory unification and the causal structure of the world.Philip Kitcher - 1989 - In Philip Kitcher & Wesley Salmon (eds.), Scientific Explanation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 410-505.
.Peter Railton - 1985 - Rowman & Littlefield.

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