Contrastive explanation and the demons of determinism

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (4):585-612 (1999)
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It it tempting to think that if an outcome had some probability of not occurring, then we cannot explain why that outcome in fact occurred. Despite this intuition, most philosophers of science have come to admit the possibility of indeterministic explanation. Yet some of them continue to hold that if an outcome was not determined, it cannot be explained why that outcome rather than some other occurred. I argue that this is an untenable compromise: if indeterministic explanation is possible, then indeterministic contrastive explanation is possible too. In order to defend this conclusion, I develop an account of contrastive explanation.



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Christopher Hitchcock
California Institute of Technology

Citations of this work

Beyond Explanation: Understanding as Dependency Modeling.Finnur Dellsén - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (4):1261-1286.
Farewell to the luck (and Mind) argument.Christopher Evan Franklin - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 156 (2):199-230.
Causal determinism.Carl Hoefer - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge.

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