Searching for Noncausal Explanations in a Sea of Causes

In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract
In the spirit of explanatory pluralism, this chapter argues that causal and noncausal explanations of a phenomenon are compatible, each being useful for bringing out different sorts of insights. After reviewing a model-based account of scientific explanation, which can accommodate causal and noncausal explanations alike, an important core conception of noncausal explanation is identified. This noncausal form of model-based explanation is illustrated using the example of how Earth scientists in a subfield known as aeolian geomorphology are explaining the formation of regularlyspaced sand ripples. The chapter concludes that even when it comes to everyday "medium-sized dry goods" such as sand ripples, where there is a complete causal story to be told, one can find examples of noncausal scientific explanations.
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