: What do appeals to case studies accomplish? Consider the dilemma: On the one hand, if the case is selected because it exemplifies the philosophical point, then it is not clear that the historical data hasn't been manipulated to fit the point. On the other hand, if one starts with a case study, it is not clear where to go from there—for it is unreasonable to generalize from one case or even two or three.
Since the publication of Carl Hempel and Paul Oppenheim's ground-breaking work "Studies in the Logic of Explanation," the theory of explanation has remained a major topic in the philosophy of science. This valuable collection provides readers with the opportunity to study some of the classic essays on the theory of explanation along with the best examples of the most recent work being done on the topic. In addition to the original Hempel and Oppenheim paper, the volume includes Scriven's critical reaction (...) to it, Wilfrid Sellars's discussion of the problem of theoretical explanation, and pieces by Salmon, Railton, van Fraassen, Friedman, Kitcher, and Achinstein in which they demonstrate the vitality of the subject by extending the scope of the inquiry. (shrink)
It is argued that the question “Can we trust technology?” is unanswerable because it is open-ended. Only questions about specific issues that can have specific answers should be entertained. It is further argued that the reason the question cannot be answered is that there is no such thing as Technology simpliciter. Fundamentally, the question comes down to trusting people and even then, the question has to be specific about trusting a person to do this or that.
The question is how do Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEMs) give us access to the nano world? The images these instruments produce, I argue, do not allow us to see atoms in the same way that we see trees. To the extent that SEMs and STMs allow us to see the occupants of the nano world it is by way of metaphorical extension of the concept of “seeing”. The more general claim is that changes in scientific instrumentation effect changes in the (...) concepts central to our understanding of scientific results. (shrink)
Summary A sufficient condition for a revolution in physics is a change in the concept of cause. To demonstrate this, we examine three developments in physical theory. After informally characterizing a theory in terms of an heuristic and a set of equations, we show how tensions between these two dimensions lead to the development of alternative theoretical accounts. In each case the crucial move results in a refinement of our account of cause. All these refinements taken together result in the (...) emergence of a new conceptual framework in which âcausationâ is evolving in a manner unrelated to the common sense understanding of the concept. (shrink)
It is argued that Galileo's theory of justification was a version of explanationism. Galileo's Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems is to be read as primarily a defense of his theory of the tides. He shows how, by assuming Copernican motions, he can explain the tides, thereby justifying the endorsement of Copernicus. The crux of the argument rests on Galileo's account of explanation, which is novel in its reliance on the use of geometry. Finally, the consequences of his use (...) of geometry, and his views on the limits of knowledge, force us to conclude that if Galileo was a realist, his realism was so highly constrained as to be irrelevant. (shrink)
Wilfrid Sellars attempts to deflect traditional objections to the straight rule of inductive acceptance by embedding it in a complicated system of levels. This system rests on a theory of probability in which the meaning of "probable" is reconstructed in the context of Sellars' general theory of practical reason. To say a statement is probable means, according to Sellars, that there is good reason for accepting the statement as true. In this paper I examine Sellars' attempt to resuscitate the straight (...) rule and conclude that not only does he fail, but his account of "probable" is circular. (shrink)
The essays in this volume grew out of a seminar examining the possibility of the emergence of a new consensus in the philosophy of science. While that issue is not resolved, we are presented with the most thorough examination of problems associated with the deductive-nomological model of explanation and its variants since the publication of Hempel's Aspects of Scientific Explanation and other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. The discussion begins with Wesley Salmon's monograph-length review of the past forty years (...) of work in the tradition initiated by Hempel and Oppenheim in their groundbreaking article "Studies in the Logic of Explanation". As one of the major players in the debates, Salmon's personal account is informative; it provides a useful introduction to the topic and covers the recent history of work on explanation in a manner that allows the uninitiated to follow the arguments and intricacies of the essays that follow. A main theme in Salmon's essay, as in much of his work, is the relation between the theory of explanation and the concept of causation. Given that the notion of causal laws plays a dominant role in DN explanations, this discussion is most welcome. Causation is also a clear concern of many of the other papers. The resolution of some of the tensions between Salmon's approach to causation, and the various roles of explanation in the philosophy of science, is, in fact, one of the main objectives of the extended concluding piece by Philip Kitcher. For Kitcher, explanations serve as unifying mechanisms for theories within different disciplines. Unification in turn also serves as a criterion for choosing between competing theories. The interplay between, on the one hand, Salmon's attention to the problems deriving from Hempel's initial formulation of DN and, on the other hand, Kitcher's concerns with Salmon's conceptualization of causation, produces one of the more fascinating dialectics of the volume. By attending to their dialogue, we see just how far the theory of explanation has come in the last forty years and yet how slow progress can be when fundamental problems are deeply entrenched. Causation continues to bedevil us. With one exception, the remaining contributors to this volume seem to confirm that judgment. Matti Sintonen, Paul Humphreys, David Papineau, Nancy Cartwright, James Woodward, and Merilee Salmon explore the many facets of causation as it applies to clarifying our explanatory objectives. Peter Railton is an exception. In his paper Railton reminds us that behind the epistemological and pragmatic concerns of most of the other contributors, Wesley Salmon included, there lies a set of metaphysical concerns. A thorough analysis of causation and, hence, a resolution to many of the DN model's problems requires a logically prior assessment of the relation between the epistemology of causation and the metaphysics of necessity. How one decides that issue or cluster of issues, Railton reminds us, will play heavily in the controversies between realists and nonrealists over the proper use of the principle of inference to the best explanation. (shrink)
SummaryHempel's Deductive‐Nomological model of explanation is compared to Sellars' brand of essentialism. The source of their differences is shown to lie in their views on the explanatory role of inductively based generalizations. An adequate explanation requires a reasoned account of why an empirical generalization fails. On Sellars' view this entails concentrating on the nature of the things whose behavior is in question. We thereby remove ourselves from the misleading positivist methodology in which one counterinstance renders a generalization uninteresting. It is (...) suggested instead that “disconfirmed” generalizations are of crucial positive methodological importance for purposes of theory development.RésuméLe modèle déductif‐nomologique de Hempel est comparéà l'essentialisme dans la version qu'en propose Sellars. L'auteur montre que leurs différences proviennent de ce qu'ils jugent différemment le rôle explicatif des généralisations inductives et les raisons de l'échec d'une généralisation empirique. D'après Sellars, il faut par conséquent se concentrer sur la nature des choses dont on observe le comportement; on évite ainsi les problèmes méthodologiques soulevés par les théories positivistes standard de la confirmation. L'auteur conclut en montrant que des généralisations infirmées ont une importance positive capitale pour le développement des théories. (shrink)
We examine Galileo's theory of evidence as presented in his Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems. It is argued that for Galileo evidence not only had to be tied to the senses, but, that for purposes of evidential relevance, epistemologically significant experience is only of terrestrial objects and events. This account forms the first part of an argument for understanding Galileo as an instrumentalist. The second part of the argument consists in examining Galileo's views on the limits of knowledge. (...) Given his conviction that we cannot know everything and his requirement that evidence be tied to terrestrial phenomena, claims for instrumentalism seem warranted. (shrink)