Explanation and Justification: Understanding the Functions of Fact-Insensitive Principles

Socialist Studies 11 (1):174-86 (2016)
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In recent work, Andrew T. Forcehimes and Robert B. Talisse correctly note that G.A. Cohen’s fact-insensitivity thesis, properly understood, is explanatory. This observation raises an important concern. If fact-insensitive principles are explanatory, then what role can they play in normative deliberations? The purpose of my paper is, in part, to address this question. Following David Miller, I indicate that on a charitable understanding of Cohen’s thesis, an explanatory principle explains a justificatory fact by completing an otherwise logically incomplete inference. As a result, the explanatory role such a principle plays is inseparable from its status as a (not necessarily successful) justificatory reason. With this interpretation in hand, I then proceed to argue that Lea Ypi’s and Robert Jubb’s recent criticisms fail to undermine Cohen’s thesis, and that fact-insensitive principles, once discovered, are especially helpful for purposes of deliberation in circumstances characterized by changing and changeable feasibility constraints.
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