The What, the How, and the Why: The Explanation of Ernst Mach

Behavior and Philosophy 31:181 - 192 (2003)
Putative distinctions between explanation and description constitute a very old issue in the sciences. Behavior analysts commonly call their science "descriptive" as opposed to "explanatory." One obvious difficulty here is to achieve any agreement on the meaning or use of these terms. Without some agreement, debate is pointless. I examine various uses of these terms and consider whether they have any clearly distinctive meanings in the actual conduct of a science. Many behaviorists are inspired (via Skinner) by Ernst Mach to view science as discription, but I will argue that Mach's use of the term "description" corresponds to what most scientists would call "explanation." Thus, on this basis at least, behaviorists are unjustified in their opposition to science as "explanation.".
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