Explaining Explanation
Ruben (David-Hillel)
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Back Cover Blurb1

  1. How does one explain the concept of 'explanation'?
  2. The attempts of Plato, Aristotle, Mill and Hempel are here examined, and the author provides his own solution to this question, both within philosophy of science and epistemology in general.

Inside Cover Blurb
  1. David-Hillel Ruben offers a discussion of some of the main historical attempts to explain the concept of explanation, examining the works of Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, and Carl Hempel.
  2. Building on and developing the insights of these historical figures, he introduces an elaboration and defense of his own solution. In this volume, Ruben relates the concept of explanation to both epistemological and metaphysical issues.
  3. Not content to confine the concept to the realm of philosophy of science, he examines it within a far more broadly conceived theory of knowledge.
  4. He concludes with his own original and challenging explanation of explanation.
  5. Explaining Explanation will be read with interest by students of general philosophy as well as those specializing in the philosophy of science and scholars with a more advanced level of interest.

    Preface and Acknowledgements - ix
  1. Getting our Bearings – 1
    Some explanations
    Process and product
    The methodology of explaining explanation
    Restricting the scope of the analysis
    Scientific and ordinary explanation
    Partial and full explanation
    Bad explanations and no explanations
    Some terminology
    Theories of explanation
    Dispensing with contrastives
  2. Plato on Explanation – 45
    The Phaedo
    Platonic explanantia and explananda
    Problems for the physical explainers
    Some terminology
    Plato's Principles
    Plato's (PP2)
    Plato's (PP1)
    The Theaetetus
  3. Aristotle on Explanation – 77
    The doctrine of the four causes
    Does Aristotle have a general account of explanation?
    Incidental and per se causes
    Necessitation and laws in explanation
    Aristotle on scientific explanation
    Aristotle's demonstrations
  4. Mill and Hempel on Explanation – 110
    1. Mill
      Mill's account: laws of coexistence and succession
      Mill's account: the symmetry thesis
      Mill on ultimate explanations
      Mill on deduction and explanation
    2. Hempel
      Hempel's account of scientific explanation
      Hempel's methodology
      Hempel on the symmetry thesis
      Hempel on inductive-statistical explanation
      Hempel on epistemic ambiguity
  5. The Ontology of Explanation – 155
    Explanation and epistemology
    Extensionality and the slingshot
    The relata of the explanation relation
    Explaining facts
    The non-extensionality of facts
    Facts: worldly or wordy?
    The co-typical predicate extensionality of facts
    The name transparency of facts
  6. Arguments, Laws, and Explanation – 181
    The standard counterexamples: irrelevance
    The standard counterexamples: symmetry
    A proposed cure and its problems: the causal condition
    Generalizations get their revenge
  7. A Realist Theory of Explanation – 209
    Are all singular explanations causal explanations?
    What would make an explanation non-causal?
    Identity and explanation
    Are there other non-causal singular explanations?
    Disposition explanations
    Again: determinative, high and low dependency explanations
  8. Notes – 234
    Name Index
    Subject Index

In-Page Footnotes ("Ruben (David-Hillel) - Explaining Explanation")

Footnote 1:
  • Routledge; 1st edition (11 Dec. 1992)
  • Recommended by Papineau "Methodology"

"Ruben (David-Hillel) - Explaining Explanation"

Source: Ruben - Explaining Explanation

  1. This book is written in the conviction that the concept of explanation should not be exclusively hijacked by the philosophy of the natural sciences. As I repeat often in the following, like knowledge, explanation is an epistemic concept, and therefore has a philosophical location within theory of knowledge, widely conceived. The philosophy of science has great relevance for a theory of explanation, just as it does for discussions of knowledge. But it is not the sole proprietor of either concept.
  2. [… snip …]
  3. My intellectual debts are many.
    1. Peter Milne read ancestors of chapters II and V, and generously helped me with some of the more technical parts of chapter II.
    2. Jonathan Barnes read and commented on an ancestor of chapter III.
    3. Graham MacDonald and Mark Sainsbury commented on, and made many helpful suggestions for the improvement of early versions of chapters I and V.
    4. Peter Lipton provided me with many fruitful discussions of explanation generally, and also commented in detail on chapters I, IV, V, and VI.
    5. Gary Clarke and Paul Noordhof read over the whole manuscript in an almost final form; both made many useful suggestions throughout the manuscript, and saved me from numerous errors.
    6. It would, perhaps, not be inappropriate in a paragraph on intellectual debts to mention my deep respect for the literature I discuss (even when I argue with it), and the extent to which I have learned and profited from it. This is obvious in the case of the historical figures, but, obvious or not, it is similarly the case with the contemporary literature on explanation which I cite (and some which I do not have space or time to cite). Whatever I have been able to discern has only been by standing on their shoulders.
    7. I have learned a great deal from everything I have read, but perhaps the greatest single influence on my thinking has been the work of Peter Achinstein.
  4. It is so self-evident that only the writer himself can be responsible for any remaining mistakes and errors, that writers often attempt to discover increasingly novel or amusing ways in which to say this. I shall not try; I know that the philosophical influence of all these people made the book much better than it would otherwise have been, and it cannot be the fault of any of them that they were unable to detect all of the errors I made, or unable to ensure that I was capable of making good every error they pointed out to me.
  5. In each of my previously published books and articles, I have thanked Mark Sainsbury for philosophical conversation, which - all too often - has been one-sided, with him as teacher and me as pupil. I, like most philosophers, cannot work without constant philosophical discussion, and I have him principally to thank for bringing it about that I live in a philosophically acceptable environment.
  6. The strategy of the book is almost, but not quite, straightforward. In the historical portion of the book, chapters II, III, and IV, I discuss the theories of explanation of Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, and Carl Hempel. Although there is little explicit philosophical work on explanation between Aristotle and Mill - a gap of over two thousand years - there is much implicit in the writings of Bacon, Berkeley, and many other philosophers that is relevant to explanation, but which considerations of space have forced me to neglect. I discuss and state my view on some issues as I move through these historical chapters, but in the main I reserve chapters V, VI, and VII for the elaboration of my own views on explanation.
  7. I have not yet mentioned the purpose of chapter I. The placement of this chapter has given me some pause. As I began my discussions of the historical figures, I found myself in constant need of a technical vocabulary with which to make the issues they treat clear and precise. I therefore decided to devote an opening, non-historical chapter to questions of terminology, and to classification of kinds of theories of explanation. The danger in this strategy is that the reader will not really see the point of chapter I, until much later in the book. I might suggest, for readers who begin to tire of chapter I, that they proceed to chapter II, and return to chapter I only when they find a need for a discussion of the issues it deals with. I decided not to relocate chapter I to a later position in the book, but to leave it in place, allowing readers to decide when the reading of the chapter would be appropriate.

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