Page 57 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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used; however, close similarity is not required, and considerable differences
are permitted.
2.
The characterization of the explicatum, that is, the rules of its use (for
instance, in the form of a definition), is to be given in an
exact
form, so as to
introduce the explicatum into a well-connected system of scientific concepts.
3.
The explicatum is to be a
fruitful
concept, that is, useful for the formulation of
many universal statements (empirical laws in the case of a nonlogical concept,
logical theorems in the case of a logical concept).
4.
The explicatum should be as
simple
as possible; this means as simple as the
more important requirements (1), (2), (3) permit.” (Carnap, 1950)
In the context of explanation, Carnap’s “explication” can be viewed as explaining by analogy
– if providing the similar concept that has been explicated allows the questioner to be
satisfied, then explication by analogy counts as an explanation. Carnap’s #2 states the role of
being connected “into a well-connected system.” Such a system can be regarded as the
“structure” into which a concept must “fit.” Analogy here functions in the role of label or
category membership outlined above.
Explanations happen as data is perceived, confronted, absorbed, and ultimately
reacted to. In previous centuries, data primarily took the form of empirical observation,
historical records, and abstract philosophical or religious thought. Context itself is data (cf.
Suchman (1987) on situated action and Svoboda and Passmore (2011) on modeling in
biology). The very concept of millions of pieces of micro data available to be sliced, diced,
and rearranged in infinite patterns on a computer screen was far beyond the imaginings of the
most diligent philosopher or scientist. However, data and our access to it change our
philosophical stance toward the world itself. Important too is the observation that we often
interpret technical terms and jargon based on what we last read or encountered, and in so
doing seemingly ignore the expressed intent of the speaker/author that we are now
encountering and sometimes even our own implicit understanding of what those terms mean
(Alicia Juarrero, 2014, personal correspondence). When we do this we conflate new data,
prior data, and background assumptions into something very transitive that we process as the
basis of our understanding. When we do this without self-reflection it is often at our own
peril.
One of the tasks of philosophy is to provide a framework on which the self-reflection
called for above can be constituted. Empiricism was a reliance on direct observation and
usually done on a “human” scale (empiricists have issues with such tools as electron
microscopes that display data on a human scale that has been itself recomposed from non-
directly observable instrument readings). The naturalist will further restrict that which
“counts” to items from “Nature.” But realists have no such limitation and will include in the
“world” unseen and unobservable items, the existence of which seems to “explain” patterns
that are themselves observable. Thus, the question of what “counts” as “existing” – that
which has been granted the ontic status of being – is both a key differentiator among
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