Page 53 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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they claimed that explanation consists in argumentation and, in particular, in derivation. I
strongly recommend Wesley Salmon’s (1989) locus classicus
Four Decades of Scientific
Explanation
,
in which he describes the impact of this article as well as the objections that the
DN model encountered during the following 40 or so years.
In contrast to mere generalizations and correlations, lawful regularity supports
counterfactuals
. Natural laws can account for what would have happened if something were
not the case. Among the uncritically held assumptions implied in the understanding of
explanation as inference, or explanation as derivation, is that no explanation can allow
ceteris
paribus
clauses. If the lawful regularity in the major premise must be universal, and the
entailment strict, this precludes any modifying clauses in the major premise to the effect that
“This is so (only) all things being equal.” So all particularities, all contextual nuances, are
removed and dismissed from the logic of explanation as irrelevant. Since, as we just noted,
deduction allows retrodiction as well as prediction, the arrow of time and multiple
realizability are also removed from metaphysics as strict one-to-one determinism is assumed:
given A, B (and only B) inexorably and necessarily follows. There are therefore no
probabilistic or statistical laws. In later years Hempel modified this original view to try to
make room for a deductive statistical model of explanation, but in the end he concluded that
statistical reasoning is only used when the details of the law are not known. There is no
objective possibility of either indeterminism or a probabilistic of a stochastic nature.
Statistical explanations are thus merely stop-gap measures, quasi-explanations that reflect our
ignorance and do not capture reality. And in none of these authors is there even a hint of
mereological goings-on: any relationship between parts and wholes and wholes and parts is
strictly one way, bottom up, with the resulting whole being nothing more than an aggregate
that can be reduced to the sum of its components. Qualitatively novel properties at the
macroscopic level are merely epiphenomena and are easily ignored. So, assuming a
deductive-nomological explanatory schema and the strict mechanism and determinism it
implies, there remains no possible way of acknowledging a qualitatively novel wholeness or
coherence or cohesiveness that arises from the interactions among erstwhile independent but
now interrelated and connected parts. According to the received view of explanation, strong
mereological relations are impossible. As a result, radical or strong emergence cannot occur.
One can say that what all these Science 1.0 approaches to explanation share is the
dismissal of what might be called adventitious roots, the dismissal of the indeterminate, the
particular, the contextual, the temporal, and the unique, and therefore the dismissal of
anything having to do with praxis or cultures, or traditions, or history. Although the form of
explanation changes from mythology to science, from an explicit genealogy of the hero and
the city, and of the authority of the storyteller, to that of scientific and philosophical logic,
nonetheless the notion that the temporal, the sensory, and the phenomenal are to be explained
by derivation from the eternal, unchanging, universal, and non-phenomenal continues by and
large unabated from the era of mythology to today. It is not until complexity theory and our
understanding of sensitivity to initial conditions and non-linearity, and the recent capability to
model, visualize, and simulate non-linear dynamical phenomena on computers, that
philosophy and science have begun to break away from explanations that are required to trace
the natural phenomena under investigation to their origin in what I have called the divine.
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