A deductive-nomological model of probabilistic explanation

Philosophy of Science 45 (2):206-226 (1978)
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Abstract

It has been the dominant view that probabilistic explanations of particular facts must be inductive in character. I argue here that this view is mistaken, and that the aim of probabilistic explanation is not to demonstrate that the explanandum fact was nomically expectable, but to give an account of the chance mechanism(s) responsible for it. To this end, a deductive-nomological model of probabilistic explanation is developed and defended. Such a model has application only when the probabilities occurring in covering laws can be interpreted as measures of objective chance, expressing the strength of physical propensities. Unlike inductive models of probabilistic explanation, this deductive model stands in no need of troublesome requirements of maximal specificity or epistemic relativization

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Peter Railton
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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