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Scientific Explanation: Towards a Neo-Deductivist Account

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Title: Scientific Explanation: Towards a Neo-Deductivist Account
Author: King, Martin
Department: Department of Philosophy
Program: Philosophy
Advisor: Wayne, Andrew
Abstract: This thesis is an investigation of philosophical accounts of scientific explanation. It is centered around the question: how do scientific models explain? I argue that the model-based deductivist account I propose in Chapter 5 is a viable and promising candidate for a successful account of scientific explanation. This thesis shows that other structural, causal, and deductivist accounts face significant challenges or are not reflective of the practice of scientific explanation. In the first chapter, I introduce the concept of scientific explanation and review the goals of a philosophical account of scientific explanation. In the second chapter, I explore the role of idealized models in scientific explanation. In the remainder of Chapter 2, and in Chapters 3 and 4, I critically review literature on three of the main approaches to scientific explanation: structural, causal, and deductivist respectively. Some of the main results of these investigations are that: i) an account of explanation should include a broader range of models than a strictly causal account, to more accurately reflect the explanatory practices of science; ii) a variety of models can be explanatory in a given system, but that causal interpretations of these models can be problematic; iii) and that highly-idealized models can be explanatory but that neither structural nor causal accounts can fully capture why this is so. Taking these results into account, in the final chapter, I present the most significant contribution of the dissertation, which is the integrated model account of explanation. The account relaxes local constraints on allowable features in explanatory models and instead introduces a global constraint on the model’s relation to theory. It is a model-based deductivist account that stipulates four criteria for explanation: the explanandum is deductively entailed by the explanans; the statements in the explanans are true of a scientific model; the model shows on what the explanandum depends; and the model is integrated with a global theory of science.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/9655
Date: 2016-05
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
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