Pragmatic Theory of Scientific Explanation

Period 01-01-2009 to 31-12-2013
Type Research Project
Promotor(s) Prof. Dr. Erik Weber, Dr. Jeroen Van Bouwel and Prof. Dr. Maarten Van Dyck
Funding agency Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Researcher(s) Jan De Winter and Raoul Gervais

A pragmatic theory of scientific explanation can be characterized as follows: (1) it starts from the idea that why-questions originate in different epistemic interests, (2) it answers questions about the structure of explanations by taking into account (among other things) these epistemic interests, and (3) it answers questions about criteria of explanatory power by taking into account (among other things) these epistemic interests. In their past research, the promoters of this project have shown that such an approach is fruitful for analyzing debates on scientific explanation in history, the social sciences and psychology. In this project, the “system” is completed by (1) analyzing explanations in physics and the engineering sciences, and (2) explicating and elaborating the general idea of a pragmatic theory of scientific explanation. The project will contribute to debates in philosophy of technology (more specifically, about the structure of technological explanation, and about the reducibility of explanations of the functions of artifacts to explanations of their capacities), and will clarify how epistemic interests, explanatory requests, structures of scientific explanation, and criteria for explanatory power are related to each other.