Shades of Grey: Granularity, Pragmatics, and Non-Causal Explanation

Perspectives on Science 27 (1):68-87 (2019)
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Implicit contextual factors mean that the boundary between causal and noncausal explanation is not as neat as one might hope: as the phenomenon to be explained is given descriptions with varying degrees of granularity, the nature of the favored explanation alternates between causal and non-causal. While it is not surprising that different descriptions of the same phenomenon should favor different explanations, it is puzzling why re-describing the phenomenon should make any difference for the causal nature of the favored explanation. I argue that this is a problem for the ontic framework of causal and noncausal explanation, and instead propose a pragmatic-modal account of causal and non-causal explanation. This account has the added advantage of dissolving several important disagreements concerning the status of non-causal explanation.

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Hugh Desmond
Leibniz Universit├Ąt Hannover


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