How-Possibly Explanation in Biology: Lessons from Wilhelm His’s ‘Simple Experiments’ Models

Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 10 (4) (2018)
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A common view of how-possibly explanations in biology treats them as explanatorily incomplete. In addition to this interpretation of how-possibly explanation, I argue that there is another interpretation, one which features what I term “explanatory strategies.” This strategy-centered interpretation of how-possibly explanation centers on there being a different explanatory context within which how-possibly explanations are offered. I contend that, in conditions where this strategy context is recognized, how-possibly explanations can be understood as complete explanations. I defend this alternative interpretation by analyzing the explanatory value of simple physical models the nineteenth century developmental biologist Wilhelm His constructed for animal development.

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Christopher Pearson
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville


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