The philosophical theory of scientific explanation proposed here involves a radically new treatment of causality that accords with the pervasively statistical character of contemporary science. Wesley C. Salmon describes three fundamental conceptions of scientific explanation--the epistemic, modal, and ontic. He argues that the prevailing view is untenable and that the modal conception is scientifically out-dated. Significantly revising aspects of his earlier work, he defends a causal/mechanical theory that is a version of the ontic conception. Professor Salmon's theory furnishes (...) a robust argument for scientific realism akin to the argument that convinced twentieth-century physical scientists of the existence of atoms and molecules. To do justice to such notions as irreducibly statistical laws and statistical explanation, he offers a novel account of physical randomness. The transition from the "reviewed view" of scientific explanation to the causal/mechanical model requires fundamental rethinking of basic explanatory concepts. (shrink)
The paper explores a deductive-nomological account of metaphysical explanation: some truths metaphysically explain, or ground, another truth just in case the laws of metaphysics determine the latter truth on the basis of the former. I develop and motivate a specific conception of metaphysical laws, on which they are general rules that regulate the existence and features of derivative entities. I propose an analysis of the notion of ‘determination via the laws’, based on a restricted form of logical entailment. I (...) argue that the DN-account of ground can be defended against the well-known objections to the DN-approach to scientific explanation. The goal of the paper is to show that the DN-account of metaphysical explanation is a well-motivated and defensible theory. (shrink)
Normative explanations of why things are wrong, good, or unfair are ubiquitous in ordinary practice and normative theory. This paper argues that normative explanation is subject to a justification condition: a correct complete explanation of why a normative fact holds must identify features that would go at least some way towards justifying certain actions or attitudes. I first explain and motivate the condition I propose. I then support it by arguing that it fits well with various theories of (...) normative reasons, makes good sense of certain legitimate moves in ordinary normative explanatory discourse, and helps to make sense of our judgments about explanatory priority in certain cases of normative explanation. This last argument also helps to highlight respects in which normative explanation won’t be worryingly discontinuous with explanations in other domains even though these other explanations aren’t subject to the justification condition. Thus the paper aims not only to do some constructive theorizing about the relatively neglected topic of normative explanation but also to cast light on the broader question of how normative explanation may be similar to and different from explanations in other domains. (shrink)
A compelling idea holds that reality has a layered structure. We often disagree about what inhabits the bottom layer, but we agree that higher up we find chemical, biological, geological, psychological, sociological, economic, /etc./, entities: molecules, human beings, diamonds, mental states, cities, interest rates, and so on. How is this intuitive talk of a layered structure of entities to be understood? Traditionally, philosophers have proposed to understand layered structure in terms of either reduction or supervenience. But these traditional views face (...) well-known problems. A plausible alternative is that layered structure is to be explicated by appeal to explanations of a certain sort, termed / grounding explanations/. Grounding explanations tell us what obtains in virtue of what. Unfortunately, the use of grounding explanations to articulate the layered conception faces a problem, which I call /the collapse/. The collapse turns on the question of how to ground the facts stated by the explanations themselves. In this paper I make a suggestion about how to ground explanations that avoids the collapse. Briefly, the suggestion is that the fact stated by a grounding explanation is grounded in its /explanans/. (shrink)
Explanations in the life sciences frequently involve presenting a model of the mechanism taken to be responsible for a given phenomenon. Such explanations depart in numerous ways from nomological explanations commonly presented in philosophy of science. This paper focuses on three sorts of differences. First, scientists who develop mechanistic explanations are not limited to linguistic representations and logical inference; they frequently employ dia- grams to characterize mechanisms and simulations to reason about them. Thus, the epistemic resources for presenting mechanistic explanations (...) are considerably richer than those suggested by a nomological framework. Second, the fact that mechanisms involve organized systems of component parts and operations provides direction to both the discovery and testing of mech- anistic explanations. Finally, models of mechanisms are developed for specific exemplars and are not represented in terms of universally quantified statements. Generalization involves investigating both the similarity of new exemplars to those already studied and the variations between them. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
Explanations are very important to us in many contexts: in science, mathematics, philosophy, and also in everyday and juridical contexts. But what is an explanation? In the philosophical study of explanation, there is long-standing, influential tradition that links explanation intimately to causation: we often explain by providing accurate information about the causes of the phenomenon to be explained. Such causal accounts have been the received view of the nature of explanation, particularly in philosophy of science, since (...) the 1980s. However, philosophers have recently begun to break with this causal tradition by shifting their focus to kinds of explanation that do not turn on causal information. The increasing recognition of the importance of such non-causal explanations in the sciences and elsewhere raises pressing questions for philosophers of explanation. What is the nature of non-causal explanations – and which theory best captures it? How do non-causal explanations relate to causal ones? How are non-causal explanations in the sciences related to those in mathematics and metaphysics? This volume of new essays explores answers to these and other questions at the heart of contemporary philosophy of explanation. The essays address these questions from a variety of perspectives, including general accounts of non-causal and causal explanations, as well as a wide range of detailed case studies of non-causal explanations from the sciences, mathematics and metaphysics. (shrink)
Some properties are causally relevant for a certain effect, others are not. In this paper we describe a problem for our understanding of this notion and then offer a solution in terms of the notion of a program explanation.
Recent work on interpretability in machine learning and AI has focused on the building of simplified models that approximate the true criteria used to make decisions. These models are a useful pedagogical device for teaching trained professionals how to predict what decisions will be made by the complex system, and most importantly how the system might break. However, when considering any such model it’s important to remember Box’s maxim that "All models are wrong but some are useful." We focus on (...) the distinction between these models and explanations in philosophy and sociology. These models can be understood as a "do it yourself kit" for explanations, allowing a practitioner to directly answer "what if questions" or generate contrastive explanations without external assistance. Although a valuable ability, giving these models as explanations appears more difficult than necessary, and other forms of explanation may not have the same trade-offs. We contrast the different schools of thought on what makes an explanation, and suggest that machine learning might benefit from viewing the problem more broadly. (shrink)
Explanations in the life sciences frequently involve presenting a model of the mechanism taken to be responsible for a given phenomenon. Such explanations depart in numerous ways from nomological explanations commonly presented in philosophy of science. This paper focuses on three sorts of differences. First, scientists who develop mechanistic explanations are not limited to linguistic representations and logical inference; they frequently employ diagrams to characterize mechanisms and simulations to reason about them. Thus, the epistemic resources for presenting mechanistic explanations are (...) considerably richer than those suggested by a nomological framework. Second, the fact that mechanisms involve organized systems of component parts and operations provides direction to both the discovery and testing of mechanistic explanations. Finally, models of mechanisms are developed for specific exemplars and are not represented in terms of universally quantified statements. Generalization involves investigating both the similarity of new exemplars to those already studied and the variations between them. (shrink)
The ultimate source of explanation in biology is the principle of natural selection. Natural selection means differential reproduction of genes and gene combinations. It is a mechanistic process which accounts for the existence in living organisms of end-directed structures and processes. It is argued that teleological explanations in biology are not only acceptable but indeed indispensable. There are at least three categories of biological phenomena where teleological explanations are appropriate.
Scientists and laypeople alike use the sense of understanding that an explanation conveys as a cue to good or correct explanation. Although the occurrence of this sense or feeling of understanding is neither necessary nor sufficient for good explanation, it does drive judgments of the plausibility and, ultimately, the acceptability, of an explanation. This paper presents evidence that the sense of understanding is in part the routine consequence of two well-documented biases in cognitive psychology: overconfidence and (...) hindsight. In light of the prevalence of counterfeit understanding in the history of science, I argue that many forms of cognitive achievement do not involve a sense of understanding, and that only the truth or accuracy of an explanation make the sense of understanding a valid cue to genuine understanding. (shrink)
The central aim of this paper is to shed light on the nature of explanation in computational neuroscience. I argue that computational models in this domain possess explanatory force to the extent that they describe the mechanisms responsible for producing a given phenomenon—paralleling how other mechanistic models explain. Conceiving computational explanation as a species of mechanistic explanation affords an important distinction between computational models that play genuine explanatory roles and those that merely provide accurate descriptions or predictions (...) of phenomena. It also serves to clarify the pattern of model refinement and elaboration undertaken by computational neuroscientists. (shrink)
This paper argues that besides mechanistic explanations, there is a kind of explanation that relies upon “topological” properties of systems in order to derive the explanandum as a consequence, and which does not consider mechanisms or causal processes. I first investigate topological explanations in the case of ecological research on the stability of ecosystems. Then I contrast them with mechanistic explanations, thereby distinguishing the kind of realization they involve from the realization relations entailed by mechanistic explanations, and explain how (...) both kinds of explanations may be articulated in practice. The second section, expanding on the case of ecological stability, considers the phenomenon of robustness at all levels of the biological hierarchy in order to show that topological explanations are indeed pervasive there. Reasons are suggested for this, in which “neutral network” explanations are singled out as a form of topological explanation that spans across many levels. Finally, I appeal to the distinction of explanatory regimes to cast light on a controversy in philosophy of biology, the issue of contingence in evolution, which is shown to essentially involve issues about realization. (shrink)
Issues concerning scientific explanation have been a focus of philosophical attention from Pre- Socratic times through the modern period. However, recent discussion really begins with the development of the Deductive-Nomological (DN) model. This model has had many advocates (including Popper 1935, 1959, Braithwaite 1953, Gardiner, 1959, Nagel 1961) but unquestionably the most detailed and influential statement is due to Carl Hempel (Hempel 1942, 1965, and Hempel & Oppenheim 1948). These papers and the reaction to them have structured subsequent discussion (...) concerning scientific explanation to an extraordinary degree. After some general remarks by way of background and orientation (Section 1), this entry describes the DN model and its extensions, and then turns to some well-known objections (Section 2). It next describes a variety of subsequent attempts to develop alternative models of explanation, including Wesley Salmon's Statistical Relevance (Section 3) and Causal Mechanical (Section 4) models and the Unificationist models due to Michael Friedman and Philip Kitcher (Section 5). Section 6 provides a summary and discusses directions for future work. (shrink)
This paper examines explanations that turn on non-local geometrical facts about the space of possible configurations a system can occupy. I argue that it makes sense to contrast such explanations from "geometry of motion" with causal explanations. I also explore how my analysis of these explanations cuts across the distinction between kinematics and dynamics.
Call an explanation in which a non-mathematical fact is explained—in part or in whole—by mathematical facts: an extra-mathematical explanation. Such explanations have attracted a great deal of interest recently in arguments over mathematical realism. In this article, a theory of extra-mathematical explanation is developed. The theory is modelled on a deductive-nomological theory of scientific explanation. A basic DN account of extra-mathematical explanation is proposed and then redeveloped in the light of two difficulties that the basic (...) theory faces. The final view appeals to relevance logic and uses resources in information theory to understand the explanatory relationship between mathematical and physical facts. 1Introduction2Anchoring3The Basic Deductive-Mathematical Account4The Genuineness Problem5Irrelevance6Relevance and Information7Objections and Replies 7.1Against relevance logic7.2Too epistemic7.3Informational containment8Conclusion. (shrink)
In this paper, I aim to provide access to the current debate on non-causal explanations in philosophy of science. I will first present examples of non-causal explanations in the sciences. Then, I will outline three alternative approaches to non-causal explanations – that is, causal reductionism, pluralism, and monism – and, corresponding to these three approaches, different strategies for distinguishing between causal and non-causal explanation. Finally, I will raise questions for future research on non-causal explanations.
Moral philosophers are, among other things, in the business of constructing moral theories. And moral theories are, among other things, supposed to explain moral phenomena. Consequently, one’s views about the nature of moral explanation will influence the kinds of moral theories one is willing to countenance. Many moral philosophers are (explicitly or implicitly) committed to a deductive model of explanation. As I see it, this commitment lies at the heart of the current debate between moral particularists and moral (...) generalists. In this paper I argue that we have good reasons to give up this commitment. In fact, I show that an examination of the literature on scientific explanation reveals that we are used to, and comfortable with, non-deductive explanations in almost all areas of inquiry. As a result, I argue that we have reason to believe that moral explanations need not be grounded in exceptionless moral principles. (shrink)
The ontic conception of scientific explanation has been constructed and motivated on the basis of a putative lexical ambiguity in the term explanation. I raise a puzzle for this ambiguity claim, and then give a deflationary solution under which all ontically-rendered talk of explanation is merely elliptical; what it is elliptical for is a view of scientific explanation that altogether avoids the ontic conception. This result has revisionary consequences for New Mechanists and other philosophers of science, (...) many of whom have assimilated their conception of explanation to the ontic conception. (shrink)
Humeanism about laws of nature — the view that the laws reduce to the Humean mosaic — is a popular view, but currently existing versions face powerful objections. The non-supervenience objection, the non-fundamentality objection and the explanatory circularity objection have all been thought to cause problems for the Humean. However, these objections share a guiding thought — they are all based on the idea that there is a certain kind of divergence between the practice of science and the metaphysical picture (...) suggested by Humeanism. -/- I suggest that the Humean can respond to these objections not by rejecting this divergence, but by arguing that is appropriate. In particular the Humean can, in the spirit of Loewer (2012), distinguish between scientific and metaphysical explanation — this is motivated by differing aims of explanation in science and metaphysics. And they can further leverage this into distinctions between scientific and metaphysical fundamentality and scientific and metaphysical possibility. We can use these distinctions to respond to the objections that the Humean faces. (shrink)
Explanation in biology has long been characterized as being very different from explanation in other scientific disciplines, very much so from explanation in physics. One of the reasons was the existence in biology of explanation types that were unheard of in the physical sciences: teleological explanations (e.g. Hull 1974), evolutionary explanations (e.g. Mayr 1988), or even functional explanations (e.g. Neander 1991). More recently, and owing much to the rise of molecular biology, biological explanations have been depicted (...) as mechanisms (e.g; Machamer, Darden and Craver 2000). The aim of this volume is to shed some new light on the diversity of explanation types in biology. What are the different types of explanation that occur in biology? Are these types of explanation specific to particular sub-disciplines of biology, or to particular types of problems across biology? How do they relate to each another? Do they compete with one another for answering the same questions? Or do they complement each other, providing insights to different questions? What are the reasons for such diversity? Can this diversity be overcome by a broader unifying model of explanation or is it more profound and irreducible? Why? This volume aims at making sense of this diversity of types of explanations that are found in biology, of their relationship with one another. After all, explanation in biology may prove not only different from explanation in the physical sciences, but also much more diverse than originally anticipated. (shrink)
This paper describes an alternative to the common view that explanation in the special sciences involves subsumption under laws. According to this alternative, whether or not a generalization can be used to explain has to do with whether it is invariant rather than with whether it is lawful. A generalization is invariant if it is stable or robust in the sense that it would continue to hold under a relevant if it is stable or robust in the sense that (...) it would continue to hold under a relevant class of changes. Unlike lawfulness, invariance comes in degrees and has other features that are well suited to capture the characteristics of explanatory generalizations in the special sciences. For example, a generalization can be invariant even if it has exceptions or holds only over a limited spatio-temporal interval. The notion of invariance can be used to resolve a number of dilemmas that arise in standard treatments of explanatory generalizations in the special sciences. (shrink)
Does mathematics ever play an explanatory role in science? If so then this opens the way for scientific realists to argue for the existence of mathematical entities using inference to the best explanation. Elsewhere I have argued, using a case study involving the prime-numbered life cycles of periodical cicadas, that there are examples of indispensable mathematical explanations of purely physical phenomena. In this paper I respond to objections to this claim that have been made by various philosophers, and I (...) discuss potential future directions of research for each side in the debate over the existence of abstract mathematical objects. (shrink)
Teleological explanations (TEs) account for the existence or properties of an entity in terms of a function: we have hearts because they pump blood, and telephones for communication. While many teleological explanations seem appropriate, others are clearly not warranted-for example, that rain exists for plants to grow. Five experiments explore the theoretical commitments that underlie teleological explanations. With the analysis of [Wright, L. (1976). Teleological Explanations. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press] from philosophy as a point of departure, we examine (...) in Experiment 1 whether teleological explanations are interpreted causally, and confirm that TEs are only accepted when the function invoked in the explanation played a causal role in bringing about what is being explained. However, we also find that playing a causal role is not sufficient for all participants to accept TEs. Experiment 2 shows that this is not because participants fail to appreciate the causal structure of the scenarios used as stimuli. In Experiments 3-5 we show that the additional requirement for TE acceptance is that the process by which the function played a causal role must be general in the sense of conforming to a predictable pattern. These findings motivate a proposal, Explanation for Export, which suggests that a psychological function of explanation is to highlight information likely to subserve future prediction and intervention. We relate our proposal to normative accounts of explanation from philosophy of science, as well as to claims from psychology and artificial intelligence. (shrink)
Back cover: This book develops a philosophical account that reveals the major characteristics that make an explanation in the life sciences reductive and distinguish them from non-reductive explanations. Understanding what reductive explanations are enables one to assess the conditions under which reductive explanations are adequate and thus enhances debates about explanatory reductionism. The account of reductive explanation presented in this book has three major characteristics. First, it emerges from a critical reconstruction of the explanatory practice of the life (...) sciences itself. Second, the account is monistic since it specifies one set of criteria that apply to explanations in the life sciences in general. Finally, the account is ontic in that it traces the reductivity of an explanation back to certain relations that exist between objects in the world (such as part-whole relations and level relations), rather than to the logical relations between sentences. Beginning with a disclosure of the meta-philosophical assumptions that underlie the author’s analysis of reductive explanation, the book leads into the debate about reduction(ism) in the philosophy of biology and continues with a discussion on the two perspectives on explanatory reduction that have been proposed in the philosophy of biology so far. The author scrutinizes how the issue of reduction becomes entangled with explanation and analyzes two concepts, the concept of a biological part and the concept of a level of organization. The results of these five chapters constitute the ground on which the author bases her final chapter, developing her ontic account of reductive explanation. (shrink)
According to a number of recent philosophers, knowledge has an intimate relationship with rationality. Some philosophers hold, in particular, that rational agents do things for good motivating reasons, and that p can be one’s motivating reason for -ing (acting/believing/fearing/etc.) only if one knows that p. This paper argues against this view and in favor of the view that p cannot be one’s motivating reason for -ing—in the relevant sense—unless there is an appropriate explanatory connection between the fact that p and (...) one’s -ing. I argue that this view offers a better account of the cases alleged to support the knowledge view. (shrink)
Theory of illness causation is an important issue in all biomedical sciences, and solid etiological explanations are needed in order to develop therapeutic approaches in medicine and preventive interventions in public health. Until now, the literature about the theoretical underpinnings of illness causation research has been scarce and fragmented, and lacking a convenient summary. This interdisciplinary book provides a convenient and accessible distillation of the current status of research into this developing field, and adds a personal flavor to the discussion (...) by proposing the etiological stance as a comprehensive approach to identify modifiable causes of illness. (shrink)
A story does more than recount events; it recounts events in a way that renders them intelligible, thus conveying not just information but also understanding. We might therefore be tempted to describe narrative as a genre of explanation. When the police invite a suspect to “tell his story,” they are asking him to explain the blood on his shirt or his absence from home on the night of the murder; and whether he is judged to have a “good story” (...) will depend on its adequacy as an explanation. Can we account for the explanatory force of narrative with the models of explanation available in the philosophy of science? Or does narrative convey a different kind of understanding, which requires a different model and perhaps even a term other than ‘explanation’? (shrink)
I discuss the methodological passage in the begin- ning of Ethica Eudemia I.6 (1216b26-35), which has received attention in connection with Aristotle’s notion of dialectic and his methodology in Ethics. My central focus is not to discuss whether Aristotle is prescribing and using what has been called the method of endoxa. I will focus on how this passage coheres with the remaining parts of the same chapter, which also are advancing methodological remarks. My claim is that the meth- od of (...) Ethica Eudemia I.6 is in agreement with many features of Aristotle’s theory of explanation as presented in the Posterior Analytics: Aristotle’s main concern is a warning against misuses of explanatory arguments. (shrink)
This book introduces readers to the topic of explanation. The insights of Plato, Aristotle, J.S. Mill and Carl Hempel are examined, and are used to argue against the view that explanation is merely a problem for the philosophy of science. Having established its importance for understanding knowledge in general, the book concludes with a bold and original explanation of explanation.
This paper examines explanations that turn on non-local geometrical facts about the space of possible configurations a system can occupy. I argue that it makes sense to contrast such explanations from ‘geometry of motion’ with causal explanations. I also explore how my analysis of these explanations cuts across the distinction between kinematics and dynamics.
This paper argues that the semantic facts about ‘because’ are best explained via a metaphorical treatment of metaphysical explanation that treats causal explanation as explanation par excellence. Along the way, it defends a commitment to a unified causal sense of ‘because’ and offers a proprietary explanation of grounding skepticism. With the causal metaphor account of metaphysical explanation on the table, an extended discussion of the relationship between conceptual structure and metaphysics ends with a suggestion that (...) the semantic facts about ‘because’ tell against grounding-causation unity. (shrink)
This article examines three candidate cases of non-causal explanation in computational neuroscience. I argue that there are instances of efficient coding explanation that are strongly analogous to examples of non-causal explanation in physics and biology, as presented by Batterman, Woodward, and Lange. By integrating Lange’s and Woodward’s accounts, I offer a new way to elucidate the distinction between causal and non-causal explanation, and to address concerns about the explanatory sufficiency of non-mechanistic models in neuroscience. I also (...) use this framework to shed light on the dispute over the interpretation of dynamical models of the brain. _1_ Introduction _1.1_ Efficient coding explanation in computational neuroscience _1.2_ Defining non-causal explanation _2_ Case I: Hybrid Computation _3_ Case II: The Gabor Model Revisited _4_ Case III: A Dynamical Model of Prefrontal Cortex _4.1_ A new explanation of context-dependent computation _4.2_ Causal or non-causal? _5_ Causal and Non-causal: Does the Difference Matter? (shrink)
From antiquity to the end of the twentieth century, philosophical discussions of understanding remained undeveloped, guided by a 'received view' that takes understanding to be nothing more than knowledge of an explanation. More recently, however, this received view has been criticized, and bold new philosophical proposals about understanding have emerged in its place. In this book, Kareem Khalifa argues that the received view should be revised but not abandoned. In doing so, he clarifies and answers the most central questions (...) in this burgeoning field of philosophical research: what kinds of cognitive abilities are involved in understanding? What is the relationship between the understanding that explanations provide and the understanding that experts have of broader subject matters? Can there be understanding without explanation? How can one understand something on the basis of falsehoods? Is understanding a species of knowledge? What is the value of understanding? (shrink)
I argue that explanation should be thought of as the phenomenological mark of the operation of a particular kind of cognitive system, the theory-formation system. The theory-formation system operates most clearly in children and scientists but is also part of our everyday cognition. The system is devoted to uncovering the underlying causal structure of the world. Since this process often involves active intervention in the world, in the case of systematic experiment in scientists, and play in children, the cognitive (...) system is accompanied by a theory drive, a motivational system that impels us to interpret new evidence in terms of existing theories and change our theories in the light of new evidence. What we usually think of as explanation is the phenomenological state that accompanies the satisfaction of this drive. However, the relation between the phenomenology and the cognitive system is contingent, as in similar cases of sexual and visual phenomenology. Distinctive explanatory phenomenology may also help us to identify when the theory-formation system is operating. (shrink)
This article focuses on a case that expert practitioners count as an explanation: a mathematical account of Plateau’s laws for soap films. I argue that this example falls into a class of explanations that I call abstract explanations.explanations involve an appeal to a more abstract entity than the state of affairs being explained. I show that the abstract entity need not be causally relevant to the explanandum for its features to be explanatorily relevant. However, it remains unclear how to (...) unify abstract and causal explanations as instances of a single sort of thing. I conclude by examining the implications of the claim that explanations require objective dependence relations. If this claim is accepted, then there are several kinds of objective dependence relations. 1 Introduction2 A Case3 Abstract and Causal Explanations4 Recent Work on Mathematical Explanation5 Explanation and Dependence6 Conclusion. (shrink)
Scientific explanations must bear the proper relationship to the world: they must depict what, out in the world, is responsible for the explanandum. But explanations must also bear the proper relationship to their audience: they must be able to create human understanding. With few exceptions, philosophical accounts of explanation either ignore entirely the relationship between explanations and their audience or else demote this consideration to an ancillary role. In contrast, I argue that considering an explanation’s communicative role is (...) crucial to any satisfactory account of explanation. (shrink)
How far should our realism extend? For many years philosophers of mathematics and philosophers of ethics have worked independently to address the question of how best to understand the entities apparently referred to by mathematical and ethical talk. But the similarities between their endeavours are not often emphasised. This book provides that emphasis. In particular, it focuses on two types of argumentative strategies that have been deployed in both areas. The first—debunking arguments—aims to put pressure on realism by emphasising the (...) seeming redundancy of mathematical or moral entities when it comes to explaining our judgements. In the moral realm this challenge has been made by Gilbert Harman and Sharon Street; in the mathematical realm it is known as the 'Benacerraf-Field' problem. The second strategy—indispensability arguments—aims to provide support for realism by emphasising the seeming intellectual indispensability of mathematical or moral entities, for example when constructing good explanatory theories. This strategy is associated with Quine and Putnam in mathematics and with Nicholas Sturgeon and David Enoch in ethics. Explanation in Ethics and Mathematics addresses these issues through an explicitly comparative methodology which we call the 'companions in illumination' approach. By considering how argumentative strategies in the philosophy of mathematics might apply to the philosophy of ethics, and vice versa, the papers collected here break new ground in both areas. For good measure, two further companions for illumination are also broached: the philosophy of chance and the philosophy of religion. Collectively, these comparisons light up new questions, arguments, and problems of interest to scholars interested in realism in any area. (shrink)
Mathematicians distinguish between proofs that explain their results and those that merely prove. This paper explores the nature of explanatory proofs, their role in mathematical practice, and some of the reasons why philosophers should care about them. Among the questions addressed are the following: what kinds of proofs are generally explanatory (or not)? What makes a proof explanatory? Do all mathematical explanations involve proof in an essential way? Are there really such things as explanatory proofs, and if so, how do (...) they relate to the sorts of explanation encountered in philosophy of science and metaphysics? (shrink)