Disseminated Causation: A Model-Theoretical Approach to Sophisticated Abduction

  • Andrés RivadullaEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 49)


How does theoretical science implement the search for the best explanation of complex phenomena? Is it possible for these explanations to be causal? These are the two main questions that I intend to analyze in this paper.

In the absence of theories capable of offering an explanation of novel or surprising phenomena, science resorts to abduction in order to find the hypothesis that best accounts for the observations. Now, abduction is not the only way that makes explanation possible or supports scientific creativity. Theoretical physicists usually combine mathematically, in a form compatible with dimensional analysis, already accepted results proceeding from different branches of physics, in order to anticipate/explain new ideas. I propose the name of theoretical preduction, for this kind of reasoning.

Usually the theoretical models designed by physicists in order to offer an explanation of the observations are built by applying preductive reasoning. The explanation they provide is inter-theoretical. In these cases preduction comes in support of abduction, and since it is not standard abduction which is taking place here, I name this procedure sophisticated abduction. Thus, if the desired explanation should be causal, this procedure would require going back to other causes or mixing causes with each other. Causation would be disseminated in a network of nomological chains.


Causal explanation Theoretical explanation Theoretical models Theoretical preduction Sophisticated abduction Disseminated causation 



I am very grateful to two anonymous referees for their valuable comments on this article.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Logic and Theoretical PhilosophyComplutense University of MadridMadridSpain

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