Philosophical Studies 148 (2):201–219 (2010)
Comparisons of rival explanations or theories often involve vague appeals to explanatory power. In this paper, we dissect this metaphor by distinguishing between different dimensions of the goodness of an explanation: non-sensitivity, cognitive salience, precision, factual accuracy and degree of integration. These dimensions are partially independent and often come into conflict. Our main contribution is to go beyond simple stipulation or description by explicating why these factors are taken to be explanatory virtues. We accomplish this by using the contrastive-counterfactual approach to explanation and the view of understanding as an inferential ability. By combining these perspectives, we show how the explanatory power of an explanation in a given dimension can be assessed by showing the range of answers it provides to what-if-things-had-been-different questions and the theoretical and pragmatic importance of these questions. Our account also explains intuitions linking explanation to unification or to exhibition of a mechanism.
|Keywords||Explanation Understanding Explanatory power Inference to the best explanation|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
References found in this work BETA
Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation.James Woodward - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
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Global Scepticism, Underdetermination and Metaphysical Possibility.Luca Moretti - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (2):381-403.
Reassessing Woodward’s Account of Explanation: Regularities, Counterfactuals, and Noncausal Explanations.Juha Saatsi & Mark Pexton - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):613-624.
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