How chance explains

Noûs 57 (2):290-315 (2021)
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Abstract

What explains the outcomes of chance processes? We claim that their setups do. Chances, we think, mediate these explanations of outcome by setup but do not feature in them. Facts about chances do feature in explanations of a different kind: higher-order explanations, which explain how and why setups explain their outcomes. In this paper, we elucidate this 'mediator view' of chancy explanation and defend it from a series of objections. We then show how it changes the playing field in four metaphysical disputes concerning chance. First, it makes it more plausible that even low chances can have explanatory power. Second, it undercuts a circularity objection against reductionist theories of chance. Third, it redirects the debate about a prominent argument against epistemic theories of chance. Finally, it sheds light on potential chancy explanations of the Universe's origin.

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Author Profiles

Michael Townsen Hicks
University of Birmingham
Alastair Wilson
University of Leeds

Citations of this work

From Multilevel Explanation to Downward Causation.David Yates - forthcoming - In Alastair Wilson & Katie Robertson (eds.), Levels of Explanation. Oxford University Press.
Moral Necessitism and Scientific Contingentism.Harjit Bhogal - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaethics.
A new circularity in explanations by Humean laws of nature.Marc Lange - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):1001-1016.

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References found in this work

Science Without Numbers: A Defence of Nominalism.Hartry H. Field - 1980 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
Making Things Up.Karen Bennett - 2017 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Idealization and the Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2017 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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