Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Explanation: making a statement in relation to an event, a state, a change or an action that was described before by a deviating statement. The statement will often try to involve circumstances, history, logical premises, causes and causality. See also description, statements, theories, understanding, literal truth, best explanation, causality, cause, completeness.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Nancy Cartwright on Explanation - Dictionary of Arguments

I 3
Explanation/Description/Physics/Cartwright: in modern physics, the phenomenological laws are considered as being descriptive, the fundamental laws as being explanatory. >Fundamental laws
, >Laws, >Natural laws, >Physics.
Problem: the explanatory power comes at the cost of the adequacy of the description.
1) explanatory power (of laws) does not speak for truth
2) even for falsehood, because we need ceteris paribus laws
3) the semblance of truth comes from a false explanation model: wrong connection of laws with reality.
>Truth, >Reality, >ceteris paribus.
I 4
Cartwright instead: Def "Simulacrum" View/Cartwright: of explanation: Thesis: the way from theory to reality is this: theory > model > phenomenological law - Phenomenological Laws/Cartwright: are true of the objects of reality (or can be).
Fundamental Laws/Cartwright: are only true of the objects in the model - E.: is not a guide to the truth.
I 11
E/Physics/Cartwright: wrong question: "which is the correct equation?" - Different models bring different aspects - causal explanation: not in scientific practice, we do not tell sometimes one, sometimes another causal story. >Theories, >Models.
I 44
E/CartwrightVsTradition: has nothing to do with truth - ((s)> Truth/M.Williams / >Truth/Horwich).
I 47
E/Cartwright: after the laws of nature (LoN) are known, we still have to decide which factors should occur in an explanation - the decision of which is, however, not suggested by our knowledge of the laws of nature.
I 50
Laws of Nature are never sufficient to explain something in a particular moment - the reasons to believe in them are not normal reasons, because we have never tested them - only reasons: explanation strategy - I 52 E: is still needed even after complete description. >Description, >Observation.
I 70
E/All/Generalization/VsSuper Law/C: E.g. "Why is the quail in my garden shaking its head?" - "Because all of them do it" - no explanation! - Nor: E.g. "All carbon atoms have 5 energy levels" - Super laws in turn require the application of individual laws - and these do not represent facts.
I 73
Explanation/Cartwright: Uses causes - ((s) not laws) - (EmpiricismVsCauses).
I 92
E/LoN/Cartwright: it is not the fundamental laws (laws of nature) that I need for the explanation, but E.g. properties of electrons - plus assumptions about the specific situation.
I 94 f
Explanation/Grünbaum: a more comprehensive law G explains a less comprehensive law L which it contains not through the causes of L.
I 96
Explanation/Duhem: does not draw a "veil" from reality - Explanation/Cartwright: explaining a set of phenomenological laws means giving a physical theory of them - without explaining these laws.
I 103
Explanation/W. Salmon/Richard Jeffries: E. are no arguments.
I 152
Explanation/Duhem: Organization (order of knowledge).
Hacking I 96~
Explanation/Cartwright/Fraassen: if something is an explanation, it is no reason to believe it.
I 99
Anti-Realism: E are not a feature of the truth but of adequacy. >Adequacy.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Car I
N. Cartwright
How the laws of physics lie Oxford New York 1983

CartwrightR I
R. Cartwright
A Neglected Theory of Truth. Philosophical Essays, Cambridge/MA pp. 71-93
Theories of Truth, Paul Horwich, Aldershot 1994

CartwrightR II
R. Cartwright
Ontology and the theory of meaning Chicago 1954

Hacking I
I. Hacking
Representing and Intervening. Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science, Cambridge/New York/Oakleigh 1983
German Edition:
Einführung in die Philosophie der Naturwissenschaften Stuttgart 1996

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2024-03-05
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