Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A

TitleA framework for inter-level explanations: Outlines for a new explanatory pluralism.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsGervais, R
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A

According to explanatory pluralism, the appropriate explanatory level is determined by pragmatic factors, and there are no general exclusion or preference rules concerning higher- or lower-level explanations. While I agree with the latter claim, I will argue that the former is in need of revision. In particular, I will argue that by distinguishing cases of two explanations being descriptions of one underlying causal process, and two explanations being descriptions of two distinct causal processes, it becomes clear that the grain size of an explanation is in fact determined by the interplay of various pragmatic and non-pragmatic factors. Within these constraints, positive guidelines can be developed to direct us to the appropriate explanatory level. This gives us the outlines for a general framework for classifying various types of relations between explanations on different levels. After making a comparison between this new framework and standard explanatory pluralism, I end by suggesting some ways in which the framework could be further developed.

Citation KeyGervais2014
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