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An erotetic approach to explanation by specification

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In earlier publications of the first author it was shown that intentional explanation of actions, functional explanation of biological traits and causal explanation of abnormal events share a common structure. They are called explanation by specification (of a goal, a biological function, an abnormal causal factor, respectively) as opposed to explanation by subsumption under a law. Explanation by specification is guided by a schematic train of thought, of which the argumentative steps not concerning questions were already shown to be logically valid (elementary) arguments.

Independently, the second author developed a new, inferential approach to erotetic logic, the logic of questions. In this approach arguments resulting in questions, with declarative sentences and/or other questions as premises, are analyzed, and validity of such arguments is defined.

In the present paper it is shown that all four kinds of erotetic argumentative steps occurring in the train of thought of explanation by specification are valid arguments in the sense of inferential erotetic logic. Hence, in view of the fact that the other argumentative steps were already shown to be valid, it may be concluded that the logical structure of explanation by specification can be as well-established as that of explanation by nomological subsumption. Moreover, explanation by specification provides some illustrations of the applicability of erotetic logic in everyday life and some empirical sciences.

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Kuipers, T.A.F., Wiśniewski, A. An erotetic approach to explanation by specification. Erkenntnis 40, 377–402 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01128905

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  • Biological Function
  • Everyday Life
  • Causal Factor
  • Early Publication
  • Logical Structure