Explanatory pluralism has been defended by several philosophers of history and social science, recently, for example, by Tor Egil Førland in this journal. In this article, we provide a better argument for explanatory pluralism, based on the pragmatist idea of epistemic interests. Second, we show that there are three quite different senses in which one can be an explanatory pluralist: one can be a pluralist about questions, a pluralist about answers to questions, and a pluralist about both. We defend the (...) last position. Finally, our third aim is to argue that pluralism should not be equated with “anything goes”: we will argue for non-relativistic explanatory pluralism. This pluralism will be illustrated by examples from history and social science in which different forms of explanation (for example, structural, functional, and intentional explanations) are discussed, and the fruitfulness of our framework for understanding explanatory pluralism is shown. (shrink)
Some social scientists and philosophers (e.g., James Coleman and Jon Elster) claim that all social facts are best explained by means of a micro-explanation. They defend a micro-reductionism in the social sciences: to explain is to provide a mechanism on the individual level. The first aim of this paper is to challenge this view and defend the view that it has to be substituted for an explanatory pluralism with two components: (1) structural explanations of P-, O- and T-contrasts between social (...) facts are more efficient than the competing micro-explanations; and (2) whether a plain social fact (as opposed to a contrast) is best explained in a micro-explanation or a structural explanation depends on the explanatory interest. The second aim of the paper is to show how this explanatory pluralism is compatible with ontological individualism. This paper is motivated by our conviction that explanatory pluralism as defended by Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit is on the right track, but must be further elaborated. We want to supplement their contribution, by (1) introducing the difference between explanations of facts and explanations of contrasts; (2) giving examples from the social sciences, instead of mainly from the natural sciences or common sense knowledge; and (3) emphasizing the pragmatic relevance of explanations on different levels –social, psychological, biological, etc. – which is insufficiently done by Jackson and Pettit. (shrink)
Scientific pluralism, a normative endorsement of the plurality or multiplicity of research approaches in science, has recently been advocated by several philosophers (e.g., Kellert et al. 2006, Kitcher 2001, Longino 2013, Mitchell 2009, and Chang 2010). Comparing these accounts of scientific pluralism, one will encounter quite some variation. We want to clarify the different interpretations of scientific pluralism by showing how they incarnate different models of democracy, stipulating the desired interaction among the plurality of research approaches in different ways. Furthermore, (...) the example of scientific pluralism is used to advocate the application of democratic theory to philosophy of science problems in general. Drawing on the parallels between models of science and models of democracy, we can articulate how the plurality of research approaches in science should interact within a democratic framework as well as how to cultivate multiple research approaches in the epistemically most productive way possible. This will not only improve our understanding of scientific plurality, but it can also help us stipulating how different research approaches should interact to constitute the most objective account possible or how the ideal of scientific consensus has to be understood. Ultimately, developing democratic models of science bears on the question of how deeply science and democracy are entwined. (shrink)
Commenting on recent articles by Keith Sawyer and Julie Zahle, the author questions the way in which the debate between methodological individualists and holists has been presented and contends that too much weight has been given to metaphysical and ontological debates at the expense of giving attention to methodological debates and analysis of good explanatory practice. Giving more attention to successful explanatory practice in the social sciences and the different underlying epistemic interests and motivations for providing explanations or reducing theories (...) (which ask for different kinds of explanatory information to be found on the social or on the individual level) might lead to real progress in the debate on methodological individualism, and away from the unending battles of (metaphysical) intuitions. Key Words: methodological individualism • nonreductive materialism • pluralism • pragmatics of explanation. (shrink)
From time to time, when I explain to a new acquaintance that I’m a philosopher of science, my interlocutor will nod agreeably and remark that that surely means I’m interested in the ethical status of various kinds of scientific research, the impact that science has had on our values, or the role that the sciences play in contemporary democracies. Although this common response hardly corresponds to what professional philosophers of science have done for the past decades, or even centuries, it (...) is perfectly comprehensible. For there are large questions of the kinds just indicated, questions that deserve to be posed and answered, and an intelligent person might well think that philosophers of science are the people who do the posing and the answering (Kitcher in Science, truth and democracy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. xi, 2001).This programmatic passage from the very first page of Philip Kitcher’s Science, Truth and Democracy is probably one of the most concise and accurate descri. (shrink)
Instances of explanatory reduction are often advocated on metaphysical grounds; given that the only real things in the world are subatomic particles and their interaction, we have to try to explain everything in terms of the laws of physics. In this paper, we show that explanatory reduction cannot be defended on metaphysical grounds. Nevertheless, indispensability arguments for reductive explanations can be developed, taking into account actual scientific practice and the role of epistemic interests. Reductive explanations might be indispensable to address (...) some epistemic interest answering a specific explanation-seeking question in the most accurate, adequate and efficient way. Just like explanatory pluralists often advocate the indispensability of higher levels of explanation pointing at the pragmatic value of the explanatory information obtained on these higher levels, we argue that explanatory reduction—traditionally understood as the contender of pluralism—can be defended in a similar way. The pragmatic value reductionist, lower level explanations might have in the biomedical sciences and the social sciences is illustrated by some case studies. (shrink)
This paper investigates the working-method of three important philosophers of explanation: Carl Hempel, Philip Kitcher and Wesley Salmon. We argue that they do three things: construct an explication in the sense of Carnap, which then is used as a tool to make descriptive and normative claims about the explanatory practice of scientists. We also show that they did well with respect to, but that they failed to give arguments for their descriptive and normative claims. We think it is the responsibility (...) of current philosophers of explanation to go on where Hempel, Kitcher and Salmon failed. However, we should go on in a clever way. We call this clever way the “pragmatic approach to scientific explanation.” We clarify what this approach consists in and defend it. (shrink)
Explanatory pluralism is the view that the best form and level of explanation depends on the kind of question one seeks to answer by the explanation, and that in order to answer all questions in the best way possible, we need more than one form and level of explanation. In the first part of this article, we argue that explanatory pluralism holds for the medical sciences, at least in theory. However, in the second part of the article we show that (...) medical research and practice is actually not fully and truly explanatory pluralist yet. Although the literature demonstrates a slowly growing interest in non-reductive explanations in medicine, the dominant approach in medicine is still methodologically reductionist. This implies that non-reductive explanations often do not get the attention they deserve. We argue that the field of medicine could benefit greatly by reconsidering its reductive tendencies and becoming fully and truly explanatory pluralist. Nonetheless, trying to achieve the right balance in the search for and application of reductive and non-reductive explanations will in any case be a difficult exercise. (shrink)
In the literature on scientific explanation two types of pluralism are very common. The first concerns the distinction between explanations of singular facts and explanations of laws: there is a consensus that they have a different structure. The second concerns the distinction between causal explanations and uni.cation explanations: most people agree that both are useful and that their structure is different. In this article we argue for pluralism within the area of causal explanations: we claim that the structure of a (...) causal explanation depends on the causal structure of the relevant fragment of the world and on the interests of the explainer. (shrink)
Pluralism with respect to the structure of explanations of facts is not uncommon. Wesley Salmon, for instance, distinguished two types of explanation: causal explanations (which provide insight in the causes of the fact we want to explain) and unification explanations (which fit the explanandum into a unified world view). The pluralism which Salmon and others have defended is compatible with several positions about the exact relation between these two types of explanations. We distinguish four such positions, and argue in favour (...) of one of them. We also compare our results with the views of some authors who have recently written on this subject. (shrink)
As the literature on Critical Realism in the social sciences is growing, it is about time to analyse whether a new, acceptable standard for social scientific explanations is being introduced. In order to do so, I will discuss the work of Christopher Lloyd, who analysed contributions of social scientists that rely on (what he called) a structurist ontology and a structurist methodology, and advocated a third option in the methodological debate between individualism and holism. I will suggest modifications to three (...) points of Lloyd's analysis, without abandoning Lloyd's intuitions completely. Firstly, the intuitions of the structurist ontology can be made explicit in a different way, without loosing the individual-society dualism. Secondly, opting for a structurist ontology does not necessarily imply opting for a structurist methodology. Ontology and methodology are related, but not as strongly as Lloyd supposes. Thirdly, the idea of a complete explanation, present in the structurist methodology, confuses causation and explanation while denying the pragmatics of explanation. A broader spectrum of explanatory forms can be defended. Criticizing Lloyd on these three points will lead me to the defence of an explanatory pluralism, which I relate to a minimal ontology. The intention of this reconceptualisation of structurism (and related Critical Realist applications) is to broaden possible perspectives on the explanatory praxis of the social scientist, and to question the reunification of the social sciences. It will also stipulate which form of interdisciplinarity is preferable for the social sciences. (shrink)
This paper investigates the working-method of three important philosophers of explanation: Carl Hempel, Philip Kitcher, and Wesley Salmon. We argue that they do three things: construct an explication in the sense of Carnap, which then is used as a tool to make descriptive and normative claims about the explanatory practice of scientists. We also show that they did well with respect to, but that they failed to give arguments for their descriptive and normative claims. We think it is the responsibility (...) of current philosophers of explanation to go on where Hempel, Kitcher, and Salmon failed. However, we should go on in a clever way. We call this clever way the “pragmatic approach to scientific explanation.‘ We clarify what this approach consists in and defend it. (shrink)
In this paper, we inquire how the eternal tension between science and values has been tackled in philosophy of science by analysing three different strategies that have been used: (a) focussing on different kinds of values (e.g. epistemic vs. non-epistemic values) and allowing some of these kinds to be present in science (e.g. epistemic values); (b) stipulating the role values are allowed to play (e.g. an indirect, but not a direct role); and, (c) specifying a social procedure in order to (...) deal with values in science. Recently, the distinction between the direct and indirect role values could play in science and expertise was elaborated extensively by Heather Douglas, allowing values to play an indirect role. We scrutinize Douglas' account and claim that identifying the different roles of values in science faces similar problems as earlier philosophical accounts distinguishing kinds of values, cf. epistemic and non-epistemic values (see, e.g., Kuhn, McMullin and Laudan). The problems discussed concern (1) interpreting, (2) weighing, (3) variety of, and (4) distinguishing the kinds/roles of values in science. Furthermore, we investigate whether some of these problems, rather than by the kinds-of-values-approach or Douglas' roles-of-values-approach, could be addressed by stipulating a social procedure in order to deal with values in science and expertise (e.g., Helen Longino's demand for critical interaction respecting the four CCE-norms would be example of such an approach), or, whether combining two or all three of the strategies would help us developing a satisfying account of values in science. (shrink)
In this article, we inquire into two contemporary participatory formats that seek to democratically intervene in scientific practice: the consensus conference and participatory technology assessment. We explain how these formats delegitimize conflict and disagreement by making a strong appeal to consensus. Based on our direct involvement in these formats and informed both by political philosophy and science and technology studies, we outline conceptions that contrast with the consensus ideal, including dissensus, disclosure, conflictual consensus and agonistic democracy. Drawing on the notion (...) of meta-consensus and a distinction between four models of democracy, we elaborate how a more positive valuation of conflict provides opportunities for mutual learning, the articulation of disagreement, and democratic modulation—three aspirations that are at the heart of most pTAs and consensus conferences. Disclosing the strengths and weaknesses of these different models is politically and epistemically useful, and should therefore be an integral part of the development of participation theory and process in science and technology. (shrink)
In the literature on scientific explanation, there is a classical distinction between explanations of facts and explanations of laws. This paper is about explanations of facts. Our aim is to analyse the role of unification in explanations of this kind. We discuss five positions with respect to this role, argue for two of them and refute the three others.
The story is sometimes told as follows: Once science was a disinterested activity giving scientists the opportunity to freely solve the puzzle of nature to the benefit of all. Nowadays science seems more and more driven by the search for patents and dollars compelling scientists to follow the logic of capitalism and corporatization. Take-home lesson: science is for sale and we should do everything to reverse this evolution. In this contribution, I want to analyze the narrator’s assumptions implicit in this (...) account of science. In particular, the rosy description of earlier disinterested forms of scientific research will be questioned, as well as the lack of alternatives to the dichotomy disinterested versus corporatized. I will argue that beyond the dichotomy an interest-driven science can be conceived framed within an epistemic democracy. (shrink)
In this contribution, I comment on Raffaella Campaner’s defense of explanatory pluralism in psychiatry (in this volume). In her paper, Campaner focuses primarily on explanatory pluralism in contrast to explanatory reductionism. Furthermore, she distinguishes between pluralists who consider pluralism to be a temporary state on the one hand and pluralists who consider it to be a persisting state on the other hand. I suggest that it would be helpful to distinguish more than those two versions of pluralism – different understandings (...) of explanatory pluralism both within philosophy of science and psychiatry – namely moderate/temporary pluralism, anything goes pluralism, isolationist pluralism, integrative pluralism and interactive pluralism. Next, I discuss the pros and cons of these different understandings of explanatory pluralism. Finally, I raise the question of how to implement or operationalize explanatory pluralism in scientific practice; how to structure the “genuine dialogue” or shape “the pluralistic attitude” Campaner is referring to. As tentative answers, I explore a question-based framework for explanatory pluralism as well as social-epistemological procedures for interaction among competing approaches and explanations. (shrink)
In this paper, I comment on Raffaella Campaner’s (forthcoming) overview of the debate on explanatory pluralism in psychiatry. In her overview, Campaner distinguishes between, on the one hand, pluralists that consider pluralism to be a temporary state and, on the other hand, pluralists that consider it to be a persisting state. I suggest that it would be helpful to distinguish more than those two plans of pluralism, i.e. different understandings of explanatory pluralism both within philosophy of science and psychiatry, namely (...) moderate/temporary pluralism, anything goes pluralism, isolationist pluralism, integrative pluralism (cf. Mitchell 2002, 2009) and interactive pluralism (cf. Van Bouwel 2009). Next, I discuss the pros and cons of these different understandings of explanatory pluralism. Finally, I raise the question of how to implement or operationalize explanatory pluralism in scientific practice; how to structure a “genuine dialogue” or shape “the pluralistic attitude”? As tentative answers a question-based framework for explanatory pluralism (cf. De Vreese et al. 2010; Van Bouwel & Weber 2002, 2008) as well as social-epistemological procedures for interaction among competing approaches and explanations (cf. Longino 2002; Van Bouwel 2009) are explored. (shrink)
The question of whether Critical Realism has committed an "ontological fallacy" in revealing the "epistemic fallacy" in social scientific research is addressed. An overview of Critical Realism's treatment of the connection between epistemology & ontology, which culminated in the unveiling of the epistemic fallacy, is provided. Critical Realism's understanding of explanation as it applies to social scientific inquiry is then explored to determine whether such thought has committed the ontological fallacy. The presence of the ontological fallacy within the thinking of (...) Tony Lawson & other Critical Realist thinkers is illustrated. A strategy for avoiding both the epistemic & ontological fallacies in conceptualizing explanatory power in social scientific practices is subsequently offered. It is concluded that acceptance of this alternative understanding of the epistemology-ontology relationship will encourage the development of explanatory pluralism. 31 References. J. W. Parker. (shrink)
In this paper we present two case studies on inconsistencies in the social sciences. The first is devoted to sociologist George Caspar Homans and his exchange theory. We argue that his account of how he arrived at his theory is highly misleading, because it ignores the inconsistencies he had to cope with. In the second case study we analyse how John Maynard Keynes coped with the inconsistency between classical economic theory and real economic conditions in developing his path-breaking theory.
Pluralism with respect to the structure of explanations of facts is not uncommon. The pluralism which Salmon and others have defended is compatible with several positions about the exact re-lation between these two types of explanations. We distinguish four such positions, and argue in favour of one of them. We also compare our results with the views of some authors who have recently written on this subject.
Starting from the plurality of explanatory strategies in the actual practice of socialscientists, I introduce a framework for explanatory pluralism – a normative endorsement of the plurality of forms and levels of explanation used by social scientists. Equipped with thisframework, central issues in the individualism/holism debate are revisited, namely emergence,reduction and the idea of microfoundations. Discussing these issues, we notice that in recentcontributions the focus has been shifting towards relationism, pluralism and interaction, awayfrom dichotomous individualism/holism thinking and a winner-takes-all approach. (...) Then, thechallenge of the debate is no longer to develop the ultimate individualistic approach ordefending the holist approach, but rather how to be combine individualism and holism; howcan they co-exist, interact, be integrated or develop some division of labour, while making thebest out of the strengths and limitations of the respective explanatory strategies of holists andindividualists? Thus, the debate shifts to how exactly pluralism should be understood as thenext leading question, going beyond the current individualism/holism debate. The paper endswith a discussion and evaluation of different understandings of explanatory pluralismdefended in the literature. (shrink)
Some scholars claim that Critical Realism promises well for the unification of the social sciences, e.g., "Unifying social science: A critical realist approach" in this volume. I will first show briefly how Critical Realism might unify social science. Secondly, I focus on the relation between the ontology and methodology of Critical Realism, and unveil the politics of metaphysics. Subsequently, it is argued that the division of labour between social scientific disciplines should not be metaphysics-driven, but rather question-driven. In conclusion, I (...) will therefore defend a question-driven pluralism as a guide for interdisciplinarity. (shrink)
When scientist investigate why things happen, they aim at giving an explanation. But what does a scientific explanation look like? In the first chapter (Theories of Scientific Explanation) of this book, the milestones in the debate on how to characterize scientific explanations are exposed. The second chapter (How to Study Scientific Explanation?) scrutinizes the working-method of three important philosophers of explanation, Carl Hempel, Philip Kitcher and Wesley Salmon and shows what went wrong. Next, it is the responsibility of current philosophers (...) of explanation to go on where Hempel, Kitcher and Salmon failed. However, we should go on in a clever way. We call this clever way the pragmatic approach to scientific explanation and clarify briefly what this approach consists in. The third chapter (A Toolbox for Describing and Evaluating Explanatory Practices) elaborates the pragmatic approach by presenting a toolbox for analysing scientific explanation. In the last chapter (Examples of Descriptions and Evaluations of Explanatory Practices) the approach is illustrated with real-life examples of scientists aiming at explaining. (shrink)