PSA 1974 pp 361-368 | Cite as

On Defending The Covering-Law “Model”

  • Laird Addis
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 32)


Hempel in Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays tells us that “all scientific explanation involves, explicitly or by implication, a sub-sumption of its subject matter under general regularities; that it seeks to provide a systematic understanding of empirical phenomena by showing that they fit into a nomic nexus.”1 This I take to be an informal statement of his covering-law “model” of scientific explanation. In defense of his “model” against apparent examples of scientific explanations which do not fit it, Hempel’s almost instinctive reaction has been to patch them up in some way so that they do conform. This, I believe, is the wrong way to defend the covering-law “model”. In the three parts of this brief essay I shall do the following: (1) show that Hempel’s attempt to patch up a certain version of so-called “rational” explanation does not succeed of its purpose, (2) generalize that result with respect to all dispositional explanations, and (3) reflect momentarily on philosophic method and another way to defend the covering-law “model”.


Rational Agent Scientific Explanation Rational Explanation Empirical Phenomenon Predicate Variable 
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  1. 1.
    Carl G. Hempel, Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays, The Free Press, New York, 1965, p. 488.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    William Dray, Laws and Explanation in History, Oxford University Press, London, 1957, p. 118.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laird Addis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IowaUSA

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