Explanation through representation, and its limits

Epistemologia 1:30-46 (2012)
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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.

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Bas C. Van Fraassen
San Francisco State University


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