Explanatory pluralism and complementarity: From autonomy to integration

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (3):314-333 (2008)
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Abstract

Philosophers of the social sciences are increasingly convinced that macro-and micro-explanations are complementary. Whereas macro-explanations are broad, micro-explanations are deep. I distinguish between weak and strong complementarity: Strongly complementary explanations improve one another when integrated, weakly complementary explanations do not. To demonstrate the explanatory autonomy of different levels of explanation, explanatory pluralists mostly presuppose the weak form of complementarity. By scrutinizing the notions of explanatory depth and breadth, I argue that macro- and micro-accounts of the same phenomenon are more often strongly complementary. This invites a revision of the pluralist position in which integration promotes explanatory progress. Key Words: explanatory pluralism • social science • explanatory depth • explanatory breadth • mechanism.

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Caterina Marchionni
University of Helsinki

References found in this work

Thinking about mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Explanation: a mechanist alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.
Explanatory unification.Philip Kitcher - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (4):507-531.

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