Page 78 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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explanation is needed, or a pattern-based explanation is needed. An explanation is
considered to be, in common parlance, a set of words that one person can say to
another that make something that is incomprehensible in some way into something
that is comprehensible.” (Schank, 1986)
“Explanation may be understood as the distinctive phenomenological mark of the
operation of a special representational system, which I call the ‘theory formation
system.’ This system was designed by evolution to construct what I call ‘causal
maps.’ Causal maps are abstract, coherent, defeasible representations of the causal
structure of the world around us. Moreover, the distinctive phenomenology of the
theory formation system impels us to action as well as to knowledge; it reflects a sort
of theory formation drive. … My hypothesis is that explanation is to theory formation
as orgasm is to reproduction – the phenomenological mark of the fulfillment of an
evolutionarily determined drive. From our phenomenological point of view, it may
seem to us that we construct and use theories to achieve explanation or that we have
sex to achieve orgasm. From an evolutionary point of view, however, the relation is
reversed, we experience orgasms and explanations to ensure that we make babies and
theories.” (Gopnik, 2000)
“We hypothesize that, in everyday use, an explanation provides a conceptual
framework for a phenomenon (e.g., fact, law, theory) that leads to a feeling of
understanding in the reader or hearer. The explanatory conceptual framework goes
beyond the original phenomenon, integrates diverse aspects of the world, and shows
how the original phenomenon follows from the framework.” (Brewer, Chinn, &
Samarapungavan, 1998)
“Explanatory understanding consists in the activation of a particular prototype vector
in a well-trained network. It consists in the apprehension of the problematic case as an
instance of a general type, a type for which the creature has a detailed and well-
informed representation.” (Churchland, 1989)
Explanation is a social relationship between people in which some phenomenon is explained
to some persons so that they understand it [c.f. Lundberg 1939: 51; Hilton 1990: 65; Bunge
1959: 287,289,298-302).
“[A]n explanation is triggered by a comparison between a certain state of affairs
(probably an unusual one) and another state of affairs (probably the normal one). A
range of things that occur in one state but not in another (probably including
‘abnormal conditions’) is generated, and standards of relevance, truth,
informativeness and clarity are invoked to choose among them. The choice is made
and the item is chosen as the explanation. (Antaki, 1994)
“To explain an event is to provide the best possible grounds we could have had for
making predictions concerning it. An explanation does not show that the event was to
be expected; it shows what sorts of expectations would have been reasonable and
under what circumstances it was to be expected.” (Salmon, 1971)
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