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Thomas Blanchard
University of Cologne
  1. Explanatory Abstraction and the Goldilocks Problem: Interventionism Gets Things Just Right.Thomas Blanchard - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):633-663.
    Theories of explanation need to account for a puzzling feature of our explanatory practices: the fact that we prefer explanations that are relatively abstract but only moderately so. Contra Franklin-Hall ([2016]), I argue that the interventionist account of explanation provides a natural and elegant explanation of this fact. By striking the right balance between specificity and generality, moderately abstract explanations optimally subserve what interventionists regard as the goal of explanation, namely identifying possible interventions that would have changed the explanandum.
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  2. Stability, breadth and guidance.Thomas Blanchard, Nadya Vasilyeva & Tania Lombrozo - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (9):2263-2283.
    Much recent work on explanation in the interventionist tradition emphasizes the explanatory value of stable causal generalizations—i.e., causal generalizations that remain true in a wide range of background circumstances. We argue that two separate explanatory virtues are lumped together under the heading of `stability’. We call these two virtues breadth and guidance respectively. In our view, these two virtues are importantly distinct, but this fact is neglected or at least under-appreciated in the literature on stability. We argue that an adequate (...)
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  3. Experiments on causal exclusion.Thomas Blanchard, Dylan Murray & Tania Lombrozo - 2022 - Mind and Language 37 (5):1067-1089.
    Intuitions play an important role in the debate on the causal status of high‐level properties. For instance, Kim has claimed that his “exclusion argument” relies on “a perfectly intuitive … understanding of the causal relation.” We report the results of three experiments examining whether laypeople really have the relevant intuitions. We find little support for Kim's view and the principles on which it relies. Instead, we find that laypeople are willing to count both a multiply realized property and its realizers (...)
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  4. Bayesianism and Explanatory Unification: A Compatibilist Account.Thomas Blanchard - 2018 - Philosophy of Science 85 (4):682-703.
    Proponents of IBE claim that the ability of a hypothesis to explain a range of phenomena in a unifying way contributes to the hypothesis’s credibility in light of these phenomena. I propose a Bayesian justification of this claim that reveals a hitherto unnoticed role for explanatory unification in evaluating the plausibility of a hypothesis: considerations of explanatory unification enter into the determination of a hypothesis’s prior by affecting its ‘explanatory coherence’, that is, the extent to which the hypothesis offers mutually (...)
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  5. Best-System Laws, Explanation, and Unification.Thomas Blanchard - forthcoming - In Michael Townsen Hicks, Siegfried Jaag & Christian Loew (eds.), Humean Laws for Human Agents. Oxford University Press.
    In recent years, an active research program has emerged that aims to develop a Humean best-system account (BSA) of laws of nature that improves on Lewis’s canonical articulation of the view. Its guiding idea is that the laws are cognitive tools tailored to the specific needs and limitations of creatures like us. While current versions of this “pragmatic Humean” research program fare much better than Lewis’s account along many dimensions, I will argue that they have trouble making sense of certain (...)
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  6. Specificity of association in epidemiology.Thomas Blanchard - 2022 - Synthese 200 (6).
    The epidemiologist Bradford Hill famously argued that in epidemiology, specificity of association (roughly, the fact that an environmental or behavioral risk factor is associated with just one or at most a few medical outcomes) is strong evidence of causation. Prominent epidemiologists have dismissed Hill’s claim on the ground that it relies on a dubious `one-cause one effect’ model of disease causation. The paper examines this methodological controversy, and argues that specificity considerations do have a useful role to play in causal (...)
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