, Volume 81, Issue 3, pp 271–282 | Cite as

The Born-Einstein debate: Where application and explanation separate

  • Nancy Cartwright


Application in science has its own structure, distinct from the structure of theoretical science, and therefore needs its own philosophy. The covering power of a formal scientific theory is no guide to its explanatory power. Explanation is too much to ask of a fundamental scientific theory. This is seen by considering two strands of the Born-Einstein debate: first the explanatory power of quantum mechanics and second, the reality of unobserved properties. The function of theoretical physics is to describe rather than to explain. Some techniques are a standard part of theory; while some aread hoc to the problems at hand. Very few of the derivations in mathematical physics are explanatory. This shows distinctly separate structures for theory and for application.


Quantum Mechanic Mathematical Physic Theoretical Physic Explanatory Power Scientific Theory 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Cartwright
    • 1
  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordU.S.A.

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