Page 8 - MODES of EXPLANATION

Basic HTML Version

Chapter 15 - Evaluating Explanations through their Conceptual Structures
Steven Wallis
We live in a systemic world. We will achieve a better understanding of that world when we use
conceptual systems that are more systemic. If we can identify a few types of causal relationships
between concepts within conceptual systems, we will be able to identify how conceptual systems
adapt. Conceptual systems with higher levels of systemicity will have more causal relationships
between concepts, more causal loops, more concatenated structures, and more concatenated
concepts. If we are to think effectively, explain effectively, and act effectively, we must learn to
approach our modes of thinking systemically - and to look at them as systems.
Chapter 16 - Investigating the Lay and Scientific Norms for Using “Explanation”
Jonathan Waskan, Ian Harmon, Andrew Higgins, and Joseph Spino
This chapter looks at three concepts of the term “explanation:” 1) to classify a set of
representational artifacts as an explanation for a phenomenon, 2) to classify a set of physical
processes as the objective explanation, and 3) one has an explanation for a phenomenon insofar
as one understands how or why the phenomenon came (or comes) about and that one lacks an
explanation otherwise. To say that "explanation" is ambiguous in this way is to make an empirical
claim about the norms of use regarding the term. The claim of ambiguity means that something is
taken to distinguish the three senses of "explanation." Knowing what it is would put us in a better
position to study the role of the entities referred to by the various senses of "explanation" in our
lay and scientific lives.
Conclusion
Our quest has been to reach a better understanding of why and how we choose to describe the
descriptive/understanding experience via the same word, “explanation”.
Our finding is that when
the domain of inquiry is Science 1, context and contingency's role in explanation is to be cast aside
in favor of regularities. By contrast, when the domain of inquiry is Science 2, the focus of
explanation is on the context and contingencies that have provided an environment wherein the
"to be explained" occurs despite regularities. The line between the domains is seldom clear and
the activity described seems to fall on a spectrum. Much of the muddle regarding explanation can
be cleared by bringing the congruent but orthogonal nature of these contrasts (Science 1/Science
2, realism/constructivism, ontology/epistemology, content/context) to the forefront of the
discussion rather than remaining as unarticulated background assumptions.
6