Page 62 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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subsume the particular as a case of some abstract theoretical concept. Quite the
opposite, it is to identify the concrete.” (Levi Martin, 2011)
“When we understand a phenomenon, we assimilate it to a prototype and thereby
generate novel features of the phenomenon from a few input features. The prototype
stores a wealth of theoretical information about a phenomenon. Understanding,
accordingly, is a matter of recognizing that a given phenomenon fits a more general
prototype. Scientific explanation involves the construction of prototypes … that can
be so applied.” (Craver, 2014)
“So much that has been written on methods of explanation assumes that causation is a
matter of regularities in relationships between events, and that without models of
regularities we are left with allegedly inferior, ‘ad hoc’ narratives. But social science
has been singularly unsuccessful in discovering law-like regularities. One of the main
achievements of recent realist philosophy has been to show that this is an inevitable
consequence of an erroneous view of causation. Realism replaces the regularity model
with one in which objects and social relations have causal powers which may or may
not produce regularities, and which can be explained independently of them.” (Sayer,
1992)
To the extent that social science and environmental science explanations seek to “explain” a
particular event, is not that “particularity” in opposition to the logic of explanation itself? Or
does the difference in domains justify the differential emphasis on generality versus
particularity? Scriven (1962) retorts: “the request for an explanation presupposes that
something is understood, and a complete answer is one that relates the object of inquiry to the
realm of understanding in some comprehensible and appropriate way.” Miller (1988) claims:
“An explanation is an adequate description of underlying causes helping to bring about the
phenomenon to be explained.”
“Adequate description seems to be the controversial standard. While what is adequate
in physics and similar ‘hard sciences’ can be judged on the basis of predictions (their
success and reliability), no such test is readily available in other domains where the
‘goal’ of the explanation is not to improve reliable prediction but something else.
Events involving the activities of humans singly or in groups have a peculiar
uniqueness and irrepeatability which makes them inaccessible to causal explanation
because the latter, with its reliance upon uniformities, presupposes repeatability of the
phenomena under consideration.” (Hempel, 1948)
“One of the reasons why pattern-based explanation is of interest is that it relates very
strongly to our ability to be creative. In attempting to understand why something has
happened that we had no reason to expect would happen, we can often stumble upon
new ideas. … First, we find ourselves wondering why something has occurred. We
look for a set of beliefs or rules that would explain this event. But, it often happens
that we don’t have such rules … One of the most important things to understand about
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