From Paradigm-Based Explanation to Pragmatic Genealogy

Mind 129 (515):683-714 (2020)
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Abstract
Why would philosophers interested in the points or functions of our conceptual practices bother with genealogical explanations if they can focus directly on paradigmatic examples of the practices we now have?? To answer this question, I compare the method of pragmatic genealogy advocated by Edward Craig, Bernard Williams, and Miranda Fricker—a method whose singular combination of fictionalising and historicising has met with suspicion—with the simpler method of paradigm-based explanation. Fricker herself has recently moved towards paradigm-based explanation, arguing that it is a more perspicuous way of reaping the same explanatory pay-off as pragmatic genealogy while dispensing with its fictionalising and historicising. My aim is to determine when and why the reverse movement from paradigm-based explanation to pragmatic genealogy remains warranted. I argue that the fictionalising and historicising of pragmatic genealogy is well motivated, and I outline three ways in which the method earns its keep: by successfully handling historically inflected practices which paradigm-based explanation cannot handle; by revealing and arguing for connections to generic needs we might otherwise miss; and by providing comprehensive views of practices that place and relate the respects in which they serve both generic and local needs.
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2020
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First archival date: 2018-11-20
Latest version: 10 (2020-08-19)
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