Asymmetry as a challenge to counterfactual accounts of non-causal explanation

Synthese 198 (4):3893-3918 (2019)
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Abstract

This paper examines some recent attempts that use counterfactuals to understand the asymmetry of non-causal scientific explanations. These attempts recognize that even when there is explanatory asymmetry, there may be symmetry in counterfactual dependence. Therefore, something more than mere counterfactual dependence is needed to account for explanatory asymmetry. Whether that further ingredient, even if applicable to causal explanation, can fit non-causal explanation is the challenge that explanatory asymmetry poses for counterfactual accounts of non-causal explanation. This paper argues that several recent accounts Explanation beyond causation: philosophical perspectives on non-causal explanations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 117–140, 2018; Jansson and Saatsi in Br J Philos Sci, forthcoming; Jansson in J Philos 112:7–599, 2015; Saatsi and Pexton in Philos Sci 80: 613–624, 2013; French and Saatsi, in: Reutlinger and Saatsi Explanation beyond causation: philosophical perspectives on non-causal explanations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 185–205, 2018) fail to meet this challenge. The paper then sketches a more positive proposal for dealing with explanatory asymmetry in non-causal explanations.

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Marc Lange
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Citations of this work

General Theory of Topological Explanations and Explanatory Asymmetry.Daniel Kostic - 2020 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 375 (1796):1-8.
Plumbing Metaphysical Explanatory Depth.Nicholas Emmerson - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-22.
Explanatory Asymmetry in Non-Causal Explanation.Andrew Wayne - forthcoming - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie:1-17.
Hamilton's Rule: A Non-Causal Explanation?Vaios Koliofotis & Philippe Verreault-Julien - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 92:109-118.

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References found in this work

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.
What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?Marc Lange - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):485-511.
Explanatory Abstractions.Lina Jansson & Juha Saatsi - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):817–844.

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