Unification and Convergence in Archaeological Explanation: The Agricultural “Wave-of-Advance” and the Origins of Indo-European Languages

Southern Journal of Philosophy 34 (S1):1-30 (1996)
Given the diversity of explanatory practices that is typical of the sciences a healthy pluralism would seem to be desirable where theories of explanation are concerned. Nevertheless, I argue that explanations are only unifying in Kitcher's unificationist sense if they are backed by the kind of understanding of underlying mechanisms, dispositions, constitutions, and dependencies that is central to a causalist account of explanation. This case can be made through analysis of Kitcher's account of the conditions under which apparent improvements in unifying power may be judged spurious. But to clarify what is at issue I consider an archaeological case in which debate about the merits of an ambitious explanatory account reproduces exactly the intuitions that divide Salmon and Kitcher. The case in question is the “demic-diffusion” account of contemporary linguistic diversity advanced by Renfrew in the late 1980s: the thesis that the diffusion of agricultural populations, itself attributed to demographic pressure, was responsible for the spread of the ancestral root languages (e.g., proto-Indo-Eurpoean) that account for the existence and distribution of linguistic macrofamilies. The credibility of this powerfully unifying argument pattern depends entirely on the plausibility of its claims about the conditions and mechanisms actually responsible for the explanandum, the spread of agriculture, and not on an elaboration of its unificationist virtues.
Keywords explanation  unificationist account  causalist account  archaeological explanation  linguistic macrofamilies  neolithic revolution  archaeological explanation
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.2041-6962.1996.tb00809.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive Alison Wylie, Unification and Convergence in Archaeological Explanation: The Agricultural “Wave-of-Advance” and the Origins of Indo-European Languages
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Alison Wylie (1995). Unification and Convergence in Archaeological Explanation. Southern Journal of Philosophy 34 (Supplement):1-30.
Daniel Feinstein & Shuly Wintner (2008). Highly Constrained Unification Grammars. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 17 (3):345-381.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

144 ( #29,992 of 1,924,895 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

31 ( #13,634 of 1,924,895 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.