Explanation through representation, and its limits

Epistemologia 1:30-46 (2012)
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Abstract

Why-questions and how-possibly-questions are two common forms of explanation request. Answers to the former ones require factual assertions, but the latter ones can be answered by displaying a representation of the targeted phenomenon. However, in an extreme case, a representation could come accompanied by the assertion that it displays the only possible way a phenomenon could develop. Using several historical controversies concerning statistical modeling, it is argued that such cases must inevitably involve tacit or explicit empirical assumptions.

Author's Profile

Bas C. Van Fraassen
San Francisco State University

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