Page 86 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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hand, being the subject as well as the object of this problematic relationship, we do at
least have the advantage of an internal access to it, albeit a fallible one, of course.”
(Sayer, 1992)
Searle (2012) notes: “There's a fallacy of ambiguity in ‘aware of’. ‘Aware of’ has two senses.
In the intentionalistic sense the thing you’re aware of is not identical with the awareness. In
the constitutive or identity-sense, the thing that you’re aware of is the awareness, itself – is
the sensation itself when you push your hand against the table.” This same ambiguity exists
with regard to explanation. As a noun, explanation is a representational artifact meant to
stand for a causal mechanism, a narrative, or perhaps a pre-given structure or function. As a
component of an understanding, explanations may also represent affordances, constraints,
unexpected exigencies, or absent contingencies. But, as in the verb to explain, explanation
takes on a sense of human agency. There is the one requesting the explanation, the explainer,
and the very content of what is offered. Unspoken of but equally vital is the background
information available and attended to by both agents.
The goal of explanation is understanding. Peirce (1908) tells us that good explanation
is a “series of mental performances between the notice of the wonderful phenomenon and the
acceptance of the hypothesis, during which the usually docile understanding seems to hold
the bit between its teeth and to have us at its mercy, the search for pertinent circumstances
and the laying hold of them, sometimes without our cognizance, the scrutiny of them, the
dark laboring, the bursting out of the startling conjecture, the remarking of its smooth fitting
to the anomaly, as it is turned back and forth like a key in a lock.”
“An explanatory account may suggest, perhaps quite vividly and persuasively, the
general outline of what, it is hoped, can eventually be supplemented so as to yield a
more closely reasoned argument based on explanatory hypotheses which are indicated
more fully." (Hempel, 1965)
“Whatever else one thinks of an explanation, it must be such that it establishes some
causal-nomological connection between the explanandum and the explanans. The
details of this connection – and hence the explanatory story that they tell – will be
specified relative to the available background knowledge. So, to say that a certain
hypothesis H is the best explanation of the evidence is to say, at least in part, that the
causal-nomological story that H tells tallies best with background knowledge. This
knowledge must contain all relevant information about, say, the types of causes that,
typically, bring about certain effects, or the laws that govern certain phenomena etc.”
(Psillos, 2002)
“In general, we can distinguish three types of explanation at this level. The first kind
of explanation is made for the sake of others, to tell them what you already know.
Since such explanations are almost always present in the mind of the explainer before
the explanation is given, these are canned explanations. That is, they exist in full form
in the mind of the explainer, ready to go when needed. The second kind of
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