G. H. von Wright on Explanation and Understanding: An Appraisal

History and Theory 29 (2):205-233 (1990)

Two jarring results concerning the main theses of Georg Henrik von Wright's Explanation and Understanding are reached through an examination and criticism of his project. It is shown, contrary to his settled judgment both in EU and subsequently, that the schema of practical inference is a causal principle, and that it is nomological in character. But one feature of von Wright's overall analysis holds up and continues to show promise: his idea of understanding explanation. This idea combines the EU account of the schema and its instantiation with the notion of an intelligible connection of these instantiating elements with one another. Here the schema is deployed in conjunction with the test of intelligible connection as one of its conditions of application. The schema, so deployed, is revisable on the basis of experiences that do not conform to what we expect them to be when they are regimented in accordance with the model of understanding explanation; thus, even though the schema is not a general law, we have a basis for characterizing it as nomological, nonetheless.
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DOI 10.2307/2505226
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