Page 6 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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the simplest theory has been shown to be empirically inadequate, one should expect to arrive at
the true theory faster than any other simplicity based theory-selection procedure would allow.
Chapter 10
--
Getting a Grip
Nancy Nersessian
Continuing a tradition established by the logical positivists, contemporary philosophers of science
tend to view explanation as one of the primary goals of science. By contrast, understanding is taken
to be merely a psychological phenomenon, not fit to be a desiderata of successful scientific inquiry.
After outlining the contemporary understanding of explanation, Nersessian argues that
explanation, thus understood, does not adequately capture the goals of practicing scientists.
Nersessian’s argument relies heavily on two distinct case studies. In each case study, scientists
successfully achieve their goals without offering anything that looks like an explanation. Rather,
the scientists in question rely on their understanding of phenomena gained via dynamical systems
modeling. If our philosophy of science wishes to be descriptively accurate, understanding must be
including amongst the aims of the sciences.
Chapter 11 - Modes of Explanation: Complex Phenomena
Sandra Mitchell
This chapter examines the implications for explanation of 1) emergent phenomena and properties
and 2) a re-characterization of the lawful behaviors that explain evolved contingent complex
phenomena. Emergent structures and properties need to be represented not just as the presence or
absence of properties but also as dynamic stabilizations, the unfolding of new structures, and new
laws governing behavior. The difference between physics and biology, or between very simple
systems and complex systems is not the difference between systems that have laws and systems
that do not. Rather, the difference is one of degrees of contingency. The upside of these
considerations regarding our contemporary understanding of complex structures is the demand for
pluralism in modes of explanation. Explanation is not one size fits all and not all explanations are
reductive by appeal to strict laws.
Chapter 12 -- Narrative as a Mode of Explanation: Evolution and Emergence
Rukmini Bhaya Nair
Can narrative analysis help us approximate the ways in which humans handle complexity?
Narrative is a linguistic form that accommodates fictional as well as factual accounts of the world.
Narrative straddles the long and leaky boundary between the two apparently orthogonal concepts
of “fact” and “fiction.” This hybrid nature of narrative is a salient feature that endows the form
with its challenging ambiguity and recursive complexity. The tolerance of uncertainty and paradox
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