Advertisement

Foundations of Science

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 429–465 | Cite as

Scientific explanation: A critical survey

  • Gerhard Schurz
Varia

Abstract

This paper describes the development of theories of scientific explanation since Hempel's earliest models in the 1940ies. It focuses on deductive and probabilistic whyexplanations and their main problems: lawlikeness, explanation-prediction asymmetries, causality, deductive and probabilistic relevance, maximal specifity and homogenity, the height of the probability value. For all of these topic the paper explains the most important approaches as well as their criticism, including the author's own accounts. Three main theses of this paper are: (1) Both deductive and probabilistic explanations are important in science, not reducible to each other. (2) One must distinguish between (cause giving) explanations and (reason giving) justifications and predictions. (3) The adequacy of deductive as well as probabilistic explanations is relative to a pragmatically given background knowledge-which does not exclude, however, the possibility of purely semantic models.

Key Words

deductive explanation probabilistic explanation lawlikeness causality prediction justification deductive relevance statistical relevance maximal specifity understanding unification 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. [1]
    Achinstein, P. (1983), The Nature of Explanation, Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Alston, W.P. (1971), The Place of the Explanation of Particular Facts in Science, Philosophy of Science, 38, pp. 13–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Bromberger, S. (1965), An Approach to Explanation, in: R. Butler (ed) Analytical Philosophy, Second Series, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 72–105.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Bromberger, S. (1966), Why-Questions, in: R. Colodny (ed), Mind and Cosmos, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, pp. 86–111.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Burks, A.W. (1951), The Logic of Causal Propositions Mind 60, pp. 363–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [6]
    Carnap, R. (1947), On the Application of Inductive Logic, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 8, pp. 133–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    Carnap, R. (1950), Logical Foundations of Probability, Univ. of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    Carnap, R. (1966), Philosophical Foundations of Physics, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    Carnap, R. and Jeffrey, R. (1971), Studies in Inductive Logic and Probability, Vol. I, Univ. of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    Cartwright, N. (1979), Causal Laws and Effective Strategies, Nous 13, pp. 419–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. [11]
    Coffa, J. (1974), Hempel's Ambiguity, Synthese 28, pp. 419–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Dray, W. (1957), Laws and Explanation in History, Oxford Univ. Press, London.Google Scholar
  13. [13]
    Duhem, P. (1908), Ziel und Struktur physikalischer Theorien, Felix Meiner, Hamburg (Ausgabe 1978).Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    Eberle, R., Kaplan, D. and Montague, R. (961), Hempel and Oppenheim on Explanation, Philosophy of Science 28, pp. 418–428.Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    Feigl, H. (1970), The Orthodox View of Theories: Remarks in Defense as well as Critique, in: Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. IV, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    Fetzer, J. (1981) Probability and Explanation, Synthese 48, pp. 71–108.Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    Forge, J. (1980), the Structure of Physical Explanation, Philosophy of Science 47, pp. 203–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. [18]
    Friedman, M. (1974), Explanation and Scientific Understanding, Journal of Philosophy 71, pp. 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. [19]
    Gärdenfors, P. (1976), Relevance and Redundancy in Deductive Explanation, Philosophy of Science 43, pp. 420–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. [20]
    Gärdenfors, P. (1980), A Pragmatic Approach to Explanation, Philosophy of Science 47, pp. 404–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. [21]
    Gardiner, P. (19), The Nature of Historical Explanation, Oxford Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  22. [22]
    Gasking, D. (1955), Causation and Recipes, Mind 54, pp. 479–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. [23]
    Goodman, N. (1946), A Query on Confirmation, Journal of Philosophy 44, pp. 383–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. [24]
    Goodman, N. (1947), The Problem of Counterfactual Conditionals, Journal of Philosophy 44, pp. 113–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. [25]
    Goodman, N. (1955), Fact, Fiction, and Forecast, Cambridge Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  26. [26]
    Goodman, N. (1978), Ways of Worldmaking, Harvester Press, Hassocks/Sussex.Google Scholar
  27. [27]
    Grünbaum, A. (1963), Temporally Asymmetric Principles, Parity between Explanation and Prediction, Mechanism versus Teleology, in: Baumrin, B. (ed.), Philosophy of Science, The Delaware Seminar, Vol. I, John Wisley, New York.Google Scholar
  28. [28]
    Grünbaum, A. (1972), Philosophical Problems of Space and Time, Reidel, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  29. [29]
    Hempel, G. (1942), The Function of General Laws in History, Journal of Philosophy 39; reprinted in Hempel (1965) pp. 231–243, page numbering refers to the reprint.Google Scholar
  30. [30]
    Hempel, C.G. and Oppenheim, P, (1948), Studies in the Logic of Explanation, Philosophy of Science 15; reprinted in Hempel (1965), pp. 245–290; page numbering refers to the reprint.Google Scholar
  31. [31]
    Hempel, C.G. (1959), The Logic of Functional Analysis, reprinted in Hempel (1965), pp. 297–330.Google Scholar
  32. [32]
    Hempel, C.G. (1962), Deductive-Nomological versus Statistical Explanation, in: Feigl, H. and Maxwell, G. (eds.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol III, Univ. of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  33. [33]
    Hempel, C.G. (1965), Aspects of Scientific Explanation (and Other Essays), Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  34. [34]
    Hempel, C.G. (1968), Maximal Specifity and Lawlikeness in Probabilistic Explanation, Philosophy of Science 35, pp. 116–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. [35]
    Hempel, C.G. (1977), Nachwort 1976: Neuere Ideen zu den Problemen der statistischen Erklärung, in C.G. Hempel, Aspekte wissenschaftlicher Erklärung, W. de Gruyter, Berlin, pp. 98–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. [36]
    Humphreys, W.C. (1968), Statistical Ambiguity and Maximal Specifity, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 34, pp. 112–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. [37]
    Humphreys, P. (1981), Aleatory Explanation, Synthese 48, pp. 225–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. [38]
    Jeffrey, R.C. (1971) Statistical Explanation vs. Statistical Relevance, in: Salmon (1971), pp. 19–28.Google Scholar
  39. [39]
    Kanitscheider, B. (1981), Wissenschaftstheorie der Naturwissenschaften, de Gruyter, Berlin.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. [40]
    Käsbauer, M. (1976), Definitionen der wissenschaftlichen Erklärung, Erkenntnis 10, pp. 255–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. [41]
    Kim, J. (1963), On the Logical Conditions of Deductive Explanation, Philosophy of Science 30, pp. 286–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. [42]
    Kitcher, P. (1981), Explanatory Unification, Philosophy of Science 48, pp. 507–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. [43]
    Kitcher, P. and Salmon, W. (eds.), 1989), Scientific Explanation, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science Vol. XIII), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  44. [44]
    Kripke, S. (1976), Naming and Necessity, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  45. [45]
    Küttner, M. (1976), Ein verbesserter deduktiv-nomologischer Erklärungsbegriff, Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 7, pp. 274–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. [46]
    Kutschera, F.v. (1972), Wissenschaftstheorie, Vol. I and II, W. Fink, Munich.Google Scholar
  47. [47]
    Kutschera, F.v. (1982), Grundfragen der Erkenntnisttheorie, de Gruyter, Berlin.Google Scholar
  48. [48]
    Lenk, H. (1972), Erklärung, Prognose, Planung, Rombach, Freiburg.Google Scholar
  49. [49]
    Lenk, H. (1985); Bemerkungen zur pragmatisch-epistemischen Wende in der wissenschaftstheoretischen Analyse der Ereigniserklärungen, Erkenntnis 22, pp. 461–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. [50]
    Lenzen, W. (1974), Theorie der Bestätigung wissenschaftlicher Hypothesen, Frommann-Holzboog, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt.Google Scholar
  51. [51]
    Losee, J. (1972), A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, Oxford Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  52. [52]
    Mach, E. (1883), Die Mechanik, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, edition 1973.Google Scholar
  53. [53]
    Manninen, J. and Tuomela, R. (eds., 1976), Essays on Explanation and Understanding, Reidel, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  54. [54]
    Mehlberg, H. (1961), Physical Laws and Time Arrow, in Feigl, H. and Maxwell, G. (eds), Current Issues in the Philosophy of Science, Holt, New York.Google Scholar
  55. [55]
    Mill, J. St. (1843), A System of Logic, first ed., John W. Parker, London.Google Scholar
  56. [56]
    Nagel, E. (1961), The Structure of Science, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  57. [57]
    Niiniluoto, I. (1981), Statistical Explanation Reconsidered, Synthese 48, pp. 437–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. [58]
    Otte, R. (1981), A Critique of Suppes' Theory of Probabilistic Causality, Synthese 48, pp. 167–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. [59]
    Patel, P. (1965), Logische und methodologische Probleme der wissenschaftlichen Erklärung, Diss., München.Google Scholar
  60. [60]
    Pearson, K. (1957), The Grammar of Science, 3rd ed., Meridian Books, New York.Google Scholar
  61. [61]
    Popper, K. (1935), Logik der Forschung, Berlin, SpringerCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. [62]
    Quine, W. v. O. (1960), World and Obiect, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge//Mass.Google Scholar
  63. [63]
    Quine, W. v. O. (1974), The Roots of Reference, Open Court, La Salle.Google Scholar
  64. [64]
    Railton, P. (1978), A Deductive-Nomological Model of Probabilistic Explanation, Philosophy of Science 45, pp. 206–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. [65]
    Reichenbach, H. (1947), Elements of Symbolic Logic, New York.Google Scholar
  66. [66]
    Reichenbach, H. (1949), The Theory of Probability, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  67. [67]
    Reichenbach, H. (1951), The Rise of Scientific Philosophy, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  68. [68]
    Reichenbach, H. (1956), The Direction of Time, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  69. [69]
    Salmon, W. (1963), On Vindicating Induction, Philosophy of Science 30, pp. 252–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. [70]
    Salmon, W. (1965), The Status of Prior Probabilities in Statistical Explanation, Philosophy of Science 32, pp. 137–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. [71]
    Salmon, W. (1971), Statistical Explanation and Statistical Relevance (With Contributions by R. Jeffrey and J. Greeno), Univ. of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  72. [72]
    Salmon, W. (1978), Why ask ‘Why?’, Proc. Addr. Amer. Phil. Assoc. 51, pp. 638–705.Google Scholar
  73. [73]
    Salmon, W. (1984), Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World, Princeton Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  74. [74]
    Salmon, W. (1989), Four Decades of Scientific Explanation, Univ. of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  75. [75]
    Salmon, W. (1989), Explanation in the Social Sciences, in: Kitcher and Salmon (eds., 1989), pp. 384–409.Google Scholar
  76. [76]
    Schlick, M. (1930/1), Die Wende der Philosophie, Erkenntnis, Vol. 1, pp. 4–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. [77]
    Schurz, G. (1982), Ein Logisch-pragmatisches Model von deduktiv-nomologischer Erklärung (Systematisierung), Erkenntnis 17, pp. 321–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. [78]
    Schurz, G. (1983), Wissenschaftliche Erklärung. Ansätze zu einer logischpragmatischen Wissenschaftstheorie, dbv-Verlag für die TU Graz, Graz.Google Scholar
  79. [79]
    Schurz, G. (1984), Correct Explanatory Arguments and Understanding — Why. An Approach to Scientific Understanding Based on Knowledge — Dynamics, in: Weingartner, P. and Pühringer, C. (eds.), Philosophy of Science — History of Science, Philosophia Naturalis, Vol. 21, No 2-4, pp. 321–338.Google Scholar
  80. [80]
    Schurz, G. (1988), Was ist wissenschaftliches Verstehen? Eine Theorie verstehensbe-wirkender Erklärungsepisoden, in: Schurz, G. (ed. 1988), Erklären und Verstehen in der Wissenschaft, R. Oldenbourg (Scientia Nova), Munich.Google Scholar
  81. [81]
    Schurz, G. (1989), Different Relations between Explanation and Prediction in Stable, Unstable and Indifferent Systems, in: P. Weingartner and G. Schurz (eds.), Philosophy and the Natural Sciences, Proceedings of the 13th International Wittgenstein Symposium, Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Vienna, pp. 250–258.Google Scholar
  82. [82]
    Schurz, G. (1991), Relevant Deduction, From Solving Paradoxes towards General Theory, Erkenntnis 35, pp. 391–437.Google Scholar
  83. [83]
    Schurz, G. (1994), Stufen der Pragmatisierung von deduktiv-nomologischer Erklärung, Begründung und Voraussage, in: Stachowiak, H. (ed.), Pragmatische Tendenzen in der Wissenschaftstheorie. Pragmatik. Handbuch pragmatischen Denkens, Band V, Felix Meiner, Hamburg.Google Scholar
  84. [84]
    Schurz, G. and Weingartner, P. (1987), Verisimilitude Defined by Relevant Consequence-Elements. A New Reconstruction of Popper's Original Idea, in: T.A.F. Kuipers (ed), What Is Closer-To-The-Truth, Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 47–77.Google Scholar
  85. [85]
    Schurz, G. and Lambert, K. (1994), Outline of a Theory of Scientific Understanding, Synthese 101, pp. 65–120.Google Scholar
  86. [86]
    Scriven, M. (1959), Truisms as the Grounds for Historical Explanation, in: P. Gardiner (ed), Theories of History, New York, pp. 443–468.Google Scholar
  87. [87]
    Scriven, M. (1962), Explanation, Prediction and Laws, in: Feigl, H. and Maxwell, G. (eds.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. III, Univ. of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  88. [88]
    Stegmüller, W. (1969), Probleme und Resultate der Wissenschaftstheorie und Analytischen Philosophie. Band I: Wissenschaftliche Erklärung und Begründung, Springer, Berlin.Google Scholar
  89. [89]
    Stegmüller, W. (1986), Probleme und Resultate der Wissenschaftstheorie und Analytischen Philosophie. Band I: Erklärung-Begründung- Kausalität. Zweite verbesserte und erweiterte Auflage, Springier, Berlin.Google Scholar
  90. [90]
    Stegmüller, W. (1986), Probleme und Resultate der Wissenschaftstheorie und Analytischen Philosophie. Band II. Dritter Teilband: Die Entwicklung des neuen Strukturalismus seit 1973, Springer, Berlin.Google Scholar
  91. [91]
    Suppes, P. (1970), A Probabilistic Theory of Causality, North Holland, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  92. [92]
    Suppes, P. (1985), Explaining the Unpredictable, Erkenntnis 22, pp. 187–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. [93]
    Tuomela, R. (1976), Morgan on Deductive Explanation, Journal of Philosophical Logic 5, pp. 527–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. [94]
    Tuomela, R. (1980), Explaining, Explaining, Erkenntnis 15, pp. 211–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. [95]
    Tuomela, R. (1981), Inductive Explanation, Synthese 48, pp. 257–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. [96]
    Van Fraassen, B. (1980), The Scientific Image, Clarendon Press, Oxford.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. [97]
    Van Fraassen, B. (1985), Salmon on Explanation, Journal of Philosophy 11, pp. 639–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. [98]
    Whewell, W. (1847), The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, 2nd edition, 2 Volumes, John W. Parker, London.Google Scholar
  99. [99]
    Wilson, F. (1985), Explanation, Causation and Deduction, Reidel, Dordrecht.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. [100]
    Wilson, M. (1979), Maxwell's Condition — Goodman's Problem, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 30, pp. 107–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. [101]
    Wittgenstein, L. (1921), Tractatus logico-philosophicus, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  102. [102]
    Wójcicki, R. (1966), Filozofia Nauki w Minnesota Studies, Studia Filozoficzne, pp. 143–154.Google Scholar
  103. [103]
    Woodward, J. (1979), Scientific Explanation, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 30, pp. 41–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. [104]
    Wright, G.H.v. (1971), Explanation and Understanding, Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca.Google Scholar
  105. [105]
    Wright, L. (1976), Teleological Explanations, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerhard Schurz
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SalzburgAustria

Personalised recommendations