Explanatory unification and conceptualization

Synthese 192 (11):3695-3717 (2015)
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Abstract

There are several important criticisms against the unificationist model of scientific explanation: Unification is a broad and heterogeneous notion and it is hard to see how a model of explanation based exclusively on unification can make a distinction between genuine explanatory unification from cases of ordering or classification. Unification alone cannot solve the asymmetry and irrelevance problems. Unification and explanation pull in different directions and should be decoupled, because for good scientific explanation extra ad explanandum information is often required. I am presenting a possible solution to those problems, by focusing on an often overlooked but important element of how theoretic unification is achieved—the conceptual frameworks of theories. The core conceptual assumptions behind theories are decisive for discriminating between explanatory and non-explanatory unification. The conceptual framework is also flexible enough to balance the tension between informativeness and maximum systematization in constructing explanatory inferences. A short case study of orthogenetic and Darwinian explanations in paleontology is presented as an illustration of how my addition to the unificationist model is applicable to a historical debate between rival explanations

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Stefan Sashev Petkov
Beijing Normal University

References found in this work

On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (3):388-390.

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