Part of the BOSTON STUDIES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE book series (BSPS, volume 252)


In this paper, I will discuss the idea of contrastive explanandum. I will restrict my discussion to singular causal explanation, but the basic ideas and the arguments have a broader application. They are relevant also to other kinds of explanations. In the first section I will first present the intuitive idea of contrastive questions, and then elaborate it by discussing typical criteria for the choice of a contrast. I also suggest a novel way to see the difference between scientific and everyday explanatory questions. In the second section I will discuss the major criticisms presented against contrastive theories of explanation in order to further clarify my position. I argue that all explananda can be analyzed as contrastive and that this is a fruitful approach in understanding explanatory questions. I also argue that the contrastive thesis should be understood as a claim about what an explanation can explain, not as a thesis about what the explainee has in her mind. Finally, I defend the thesis that a contrastive explanandum can be reduced to a non-contrastive explanandum against the arguments presented by Dennis Temple and John W. Carroll.


Causal History Pragmatic Theory Explanatory Information Explanatory Question Weak Reading 
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