Dissecting explanatory power

Philosophical Studies 148 (2):201–219 (2010)
Abstract
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)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-008-9324-z
Options
 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
Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 28,840
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 2004 - Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
Causality and Explanation.Wesley C. Salmon - 1998 - Oxford University Press.
Contrastive Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (3):327-358.

View all 13 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Hybrid Models, Climate Models, and Inference to the Best Explanation.Joel Katzav - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):107-129.

View all 23 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles
On an Information-Theoretic Model of Explanation.James Woodward - 1987 - Philosophy of Science 54 (1):21-44.
The Logic of Explanatory Power.Jonah N. Schupbach & Jan Sprenger - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (1):105-127.
An Inquiry Into the Explanatory Virtues of Transaction Cost Economics.Lukasz Hardt - 2011 - Journal of Philosophical Economics 5 (1):120-147.
Confirmation, Explanation, and Logical Strength.David E. Nelson - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (3):399-413.
False Models as Explanatory Engines.Frank Hindriks - 2008 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (3):334-360.
Studies in the Logic of Explanatory Power.Jonah N. Schupbach - 2011 - Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

222 ( #17,381 of 2,178,228 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

11 ( #27,946 of 2,178,228 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums