Page 29 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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action principle” allow us to simplify why explanations in the Science 2 world as narratives
about affordances and constraints, and allow a pragmatic constructivism to guide the
articulations of the abbreviated worldview that results.
The differences between Science 1 and Science 2 echo as we seek to answer: “What
do we mean by explanations and how are we comfortable with them?” The two perspectives
ask different questions that might affect what we believe or do not believe about
explanations. Are we looking at the right things? Are we self-aware of our beliefs? Do we
have the right words? Do we know the limitations of what we are talking about? The two
perspectives also offer different typologies of kinds of explanations. In both perspectives
there are how explanations or mechanisms. In both there are why explanations, although in
Science 1 why is with reference to a pre-given structure, while in Science 2 why refers to a
sense of purpose. Then there are contingent explanations, which only happened because some
context enabled them to happen, so when you offer an explanation you say: “Here was the
context.” There are but-for explanations – something else should have happened, but it did
not, and this filled the gap. Finally, there are two more explanatory types that, as Sandy
Mitchell (this volume) puts it, are not an explanation but nonetheless happen all the time:
coercive explanations – “Because my mother said so” or some more powerful force – and
“explain away” explanations, where you explain the contingencies as a result of whose
occurrence the expected observation/action did not happen, or so we claim.
[insert Figure 2]
Figure 1.2
Differences between Science 1 and Science 2
In Science 1 terms, explanations either describe a mechanism or suggest that things
belong to a category. The mechanism tells us the how, and the better we can get in describing
the mechanism, the better we think the explanation is. Category membership in a way asserts
a why – “This happened because she was nice.” Science 1 explanations are seldom
satisfactory to either the explainer or the recipient unless the explanation is causal. (There is
more on causal explanations in later chapters.) By contrast, Science 2 explanations are
seldom general enough to assert causality in any kind of a reliably predictive way. Science 2
has more room for the notion that how and why can collide with each other, and that when
they do sometimes you do not know what is going on. Science 2 explanations of the “explain
away” varieties do make causal claims, but they are claims about what might have/should
have/would have/could have happened had some set of contingencies not been present. The
resulting explanation is more of a descriptive narrative of those very contingencies along with
the assertion of some more general (Hempel’s covering law? Woodward’s general rule
regarding interventions?) structure or mechanism that, had
ceteris paribus
held, would have
cohered to the explainer’s perspective of how the world works.
While Science 1 explanations allow for and are structured around predictions, Science
2 explanations suffer from the contingencies accompanying explicit rejection of
ceteris
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