European Journal for Philosophy of Science

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 375–394 | Cite as

Mechanistic explanation without the ontic conception

  • Cory D. WrightEmail author
Original paper in Philosophy of Science


The ontic conception of scientific explanation has been constructed and motivated on the basis of a putative lexical ambiguity in the term explanation. I raise a puzzle for this ambiguity claim, and then give a deflationary solution under which all ontically-rendered talk of explanation is merely elliptical; what it is elliptical for is a view of scientific explanation that altogether avoids the ontic conception. This result has revisionary consequences for New Mechanists and other philosophers of science, many of whom have assimilated their conception of explanation to the ontic conception.


Ambiguity Craver Exhibition Mechanism Mechanistic explanation Ontic conception Salmon Scientific explanation Syllepsis 



Portions of this paper descend from Wright (2002); earlier versions of its arguments were presented at the Central APA in Spring 2004, the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology colloquium at Washington University in St. Louis in Spring 2008 and again at the Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science at Universiteit van Tilburg in Summer 2008. I am grateful to Sorin Bangu, Carl Hoefer, Edouard Machery, Maurice Schouten, and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism.


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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, California State University, Long BeachLong BeachUSA

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