Should Explanations Omit the Details?

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (3):827-853 (2020)
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Abstract

There is a widely shared belief that the higher-level sciences can provide better explanations than lower-level sciences. But there is little agreement about exactly why this is so. It is often suggested that higher-level explanations are better because they omit details. I will argue instead that the preference for higher-level explanations is just a special case of our general preference for informative, logically strong, beliefs. I argue that our preference for informative beliefs entirely accounts for why higher-level explanations are sometimes better—and sometimes worse—than lower-level explanations. The result is a step in the direction of the unity of science hypothesis. 1Introduction2Background: Is Omitting Details an Explanatory Virtue? 2.1Anti-reductionist arguments2.2Reductionist argument2.3Logical strength3Bases, Links and Logical Strength4Functionalism and Fodor’s Argument5Two Generalizations6Should the Base Really Be Maximally Strong?7Anti-reductionist Arguments Regarding the Base8Should the Antecedent of the Link Really Be Maximally Weak?

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Darren Bradley
University of Leeds

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