PSA 1974 pp 369-376 | Cite as

Dispositional Explanation and the Covering-Law Model: Response to Laird Addis

  • Carl G Hempel
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 32)


The following considerations are offered in response to the critical observations and constructive proposals set forth by Laird Addis, in his paper ‘On Defending the Covering-Law “Model”’, concerning my explications of “rational” and dispositional explanation and concerning the claims associated with the covering-law model of explanation.


Dispositional Property Statistical Explanation True Sentence Definitional Truth Criterion Sentence 
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  1. 1.
    For fuller details, see C. G. Hempel, Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science (Free Press, New York, 1965), pp. 469-472.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See G. Ryle, The Concept of Mind (Hutchinson’s University Library, London, 1949), pp. 88-90; note Ryle’s remark “The imputation of a motive for a particular action is… the subsumption of an episode proposition under a law-like proposition.” (p. 90) The character of dispositional explanations and of law-like sentences is discussed in some detail in Hempel, op. cit., pp. 457-463.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    These considerations are closely akin to ideas developed by Quine-for example, in “Carnap and Logical Truth”, in P. A. Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap (Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1963), pp. 385-406.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    This characterization is used by Ryle, who then goes on to stress that there are “many dispositions the actualisations of which can take a wide and perhaps unlimited variety of shapes” (op. cit., pp. 43-44).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The issue is examined more fully in Hempel, op. cit., pp. 472-477.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See A. Pap, Analytische Erkenntnistheorie (Wien, Springer, 1955), pp. 140-142 (reference to Kaila on p. 141), and the amplified discussion in A. Pap, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (Free Press, New York, 1962), pp. 278-284.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    R. Carnap, “Testability and Meaning”, Philosophy of Science 3 (1936), pp. 419-471 and 4 (1937), pp. 1-40, see pp. 439-441.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cf. N. Goodman, Fact, Fiction, and Forecast (2nd edition, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 1965), p. 41.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Pap, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, pp. 281-282. Pap’s analysis also differs from Kaila’s and Addis’s by invoking causal implication where the other two authors rely on the material conditional.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    A series of illuminating and suggestive observations on the issues touched upon in this section will be found on pp. 4-15 of W. V. Quine, The Roots of Reference (Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1974).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl G Hempel
    • 1
  1. 1.Princeton UniversityUSA

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