Philosophy Lexicon of Arguments

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Explanation: making a statement in relation to an event, a state, a change or an action that was described before by a deviating statement. The statement will often try to involve circumstances, history, logical premises, causes and causality. See also description, statements, theories, understanding, literal truth, best explanation, causality, cause, completeness.

Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

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Bigelow I 299
Explanation/Tradition/Laws/Hempel/Bigelow/Pargetter: (Representative: Hempel and Oppenheim 1948, Hempel 1965, Mill 1843/50, Jevons 1877, Ducasse 1925, Feigl 1945, Popper 1945, Hospers 1946).
O: Result
L: Laws
C: Conditions (sets of sentences, as premises.
Then "O" could also be seen as a set of sentences. But we are talking about compound sentences).
Then we have:
Initial conditions/Hempel/Bigelow/Pargetter: are sometimes not needed at all. Sometimes, however, the laws alone do not explain the case: For example, Halley's comet comes back in 60 years, for this we need information about certain facts, it does not only follow from the laws. The facts are contingent, of course.
I 301
Non-statistical explanation/Hempel: Thesis: if L and C explain O, then they must entail O logically. Otherwise, we have at best a sketch of the explanation that requires further assumptions.
Bigelow/Pargetter: this does not yet fully express the idea of the explanation by "deriving from laws": The laws must be used. Not only mentioned. In other words, there must be a reliance on laws.
BigelowVsHempel/BigelowVsTradition: N.B.: but these are just apparant explanations!
I 302
Just as quackers and magicians often provide an explanation with reference to prestigious natural laws, which turns out to be circular on closer inspection.
Solution/Hempel: to exclude this, he demands that additionally the premises must be true and O would not have followed if C alone had been without the laws (L).
BigelowVsHempel/BigelowVsTradition: there are still a lot of refinements to be made and special cases to consider. Lewis would call that the "one patch per hole" method.
Statistical Explanation/Probabilistic/Hempel/Bigelow/Pargetter: (Hempel 1965) here it is impossible to find laws that predict the exact result. However, it may be very likely in certain cases. Or more likely if the law is true than if it was not true.
I 303
The statistical explanations are something like derivations from the thing to be explained. And indeed such derivatives, which originate from invalid conclusions! (?).
Logical form: the conclusion should be probable, given the premises.
Variants: one can demand a high probability from the outset. Or it should be higher than O's without the premises or weaker: that O only has to be made to a certain degree likely, etc. (Lit: Salmon 1982).
Bigelow/Pargetter: all this does not differ significantly from the non-statistical explanation. Statistical laws are also part of the set of laws.
Explanation/Bigelow/Pargetter: with Hempel's help, we can now broaden our concept of explanation:
I 304
If we get the probability of a result, we have explained the result a little bit as well.
Statistical explanation/Hempel/Bigelow/Pargetter: in the end, it is all about whether a result comes out or is likely. We can summarize both cases.
"Statistical"/Hempel/Bigelow/Pargetter: only served to attenuate the requirement of logical validity.
Explanation/Hempel/Bigelow/Pargetter: Thesis is an open process. This is important. Both the initial conditions can be varied, as well as the laws derived from other laws.
Kepler's laws, for example, have been traced back by Newton to deeper ones. These then logically entail the Kepler ones.
I 305
Openness/Hempel: is that you may be able to find deeper and deeper laws.
Bigelow/Pargetter: that is one of the strengths of his theory.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
C.G. Hempel
I Hempel Zur Wahrheitstheorie des logischen Positivismus aus Wahrheitsheorien Hrsg. Skirbekk Frankfurt/M 1996

II Hempel Probleme und Modifikationen des empiristischen Sinnkriteriums aus Sinnreich (Hg) Philosophie der idealen Sprache, München 1982

II (b) Hempel Der Begriff der kognitiven Signifikanz: eine erneute Betrachtung (1951) aus Sinnreich (Hg) Philosophie der idealen Sprache, München 1982
Big I
J. Bigelow, R. Pargetter
Science and Necessity Cambridge 1990

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2017-11-19