Advertisement

Towards a Monist Theory of Explanation

  • Carsten HeldEmail author
Article
  • 18 Downloads

Abstract

A monist theory of explanation is one that seeks a common definition for all speech acts answering why-questions. One recent example is the counterfactual theory of explanation (CTE), which assumes that an ideal explanation can be characterized by the familiar Hempelian criteria for a scientific explanation plus a certain counterfactual that is supported by the laws mentioned in the explanans. I show that the CTE fails. My discussion leads to a critique of the CTE’s key concept of counterfactual dependence and to the suggestion of an alternative: For an argument to be a scientific explanation, a certain necessary-condition claim must be true. For an answer to a why-question to be an explanation, it must express a certain necessary condition.

Keywords

Explanation Hempel’s theory of explanation Counterfactual theory of explanation Counterfactuals Counterfactual dependence Necessary and sufficient conditions 

Notes

References

  1. Brennan, A. (2017). Necessary and sufficient conditions. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/necessary-sufficient/. Accessed 23 May 2019.
  2. Bromberger, S. (1966). Why-questions. In R. G. Colodny (Ed.), Mind and cosmos: Essays in contemporary science and philosophy. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Gomes, G. (2009). Are necessary and sufficient conditions converse relations? Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 87(3), 375–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hempel, C. G. (1965). Aspects of scientific explanation. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  5. Kratzer, A. (2012). Modals and conditionals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Lewis, D. (1986). Philosophical papers (Vol. 2). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Lycan, W. G. (2001). Real conditionals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Paoletti, T. (2006). Leonard Euler’s solution to the Konigsberg bridge problem. In Convergence 3 (Mathematical Association of America). Available at https://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence/leonard-eulers-solution-to-the-konigsberg-bridge-problem. Accessed 23 May 2019.
  9. Pincock, C. (2012). Mathematics and scientific representation. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Reutlinger, A. (2016). Is there a monist theory of causal and non-causal explanations? The counterfactual theory of scientific explanation. Philosophy of Science, 83(5), 733–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Salmon, W. (1984). Scientific explanation and the causal structure of the world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Sanford, D. H. (1989). If P, then Q: Conditionals and the foundations of reasoning. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Tahko, T. E., & Lowe, E. J. (2016). Ontological dependence. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/dependence-ontological/. Accessed 23 May 2019.
  14. Van Fraassen, B. (1980). The scientific image. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Wertheimer, R. (1968) Conditions. The Journal of Philosophy, 65(12), 355–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Woodward, J. (2003). Making things happen. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Woodward, J. (2017). Scientific explanation. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/scientific-explanation/. Accessed 23 May 2019.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.WeimarGermany

Personalised recommendations