Explanation and Scientific Realism

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 27:285-295 (1990)
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Abstract

A few years ago, Bas van Fraassen reminded philosophers of science that there are two central questions that a theory of explanation ought to answer. First, what is a explanation—when has something been explained satisfactorily? Second, why do we value explanations? . For a long time, discussions of explanation concentrated on technical problems connected with the first of these questions, and the second was by and large ignored. But, in fact, I think it is the second question which raises the more fundamental and interesting philosophical issues. I shall offer reasons for thinking that the answer to the first question requires acceptance of the sort of fullblown notion of causation that only a scientific realist can love, and that the answer to the second question requires a realist construal of scientific theories and scientific methodology. My argument will be mainly negative, surveying the problems facing some major alternative accounts of explanation. A full elaboration of the realist perspective will have to await the completion of work in progress

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Citations of this work

Inference to the More Robust Explanation.Nicholaos Jones - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (1):75-102.

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References found in this work

Explanatory Unification.Philip Kitcher - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (4):507-531.
The Best Explanation: Criteria for Theory Choice.Paul R. Thagard - 1978 - Journal of Philosophy 75 (2):76-92.
The Pragmatics of Explanation.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1977 - American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (2):143-150.

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