Page 87 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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explanation is what I call explaining-away explanation. Its intent is to cause an
understanding system to not have to change as a result of understanding a new input.
The third kind we call additive explanations. An explanation is additive when it is the
case that after the explanation is finished, the explainer now knows something that he
didn’t know before.” (Schank, 1986)
Markus Gabriel pointed at this at an inaugural conference on the new realism in 2012:
“[T]he world has a complicated structure and part of the complication is that there are
many domains. … this complicated structure is often the object of both our cognitive
and practical activities. … huge chunks of the world’s complicated structure consist
of absolute facts, an absolute fact being something which is true of something anyway
… one of those absolute facts might be that some human discourse is internally
structured in such a manner that local conceptual relativity is the best diagnosis of this
region of the structure. … There are various domains of discourse and there are
absolute facts about what makes a domain of discourse. … If I use a door as an access
to my bedroom, the fact that I access my bedroom through the door does not usually
lead to me confusing my bedroom with my entering it. … We would always have to
ask ourselves, ‘Well, in which context do I find myself?’”
Craver (2007) notes that “Scientific explanations are constructed and communicated by
limited cognitive agents with particular pragmatic orientations.” These limited agents
(presumably the same ones of whom Wimsatt writes [2007]) are unlikely to draw the fine
distinction that Hempel does above. To these agents, once an explanation “satisfies” the
question being asked, it will assume the role of background information and from that point
forward “inform” the context for the agent’s subsequent actions, decisions, and perceptions.
The definitions, limitations, constraints, and opportunities afforded by these “accepted”
explanations will differ across domains and may differ in both ontic conception and epistemic
process. For the hard sciences of Science 1, the affordances will be about prediction and the
ontic qualities will address revealed “truth.” For the special sciences of Science 2, reflexive
anticipation and volition will suggest that the affordances are about attunement to
environment and context, and that the ontic questions of truth are satisfied at least
contingently by epistemic processes that involve positing “as if.” For the practitioners and
observers of both Sciences (1 and 2), the methods of discovery and of developing the
explanations so proffered will by necessity be epistemic in nature, context dependent, and to
some unknown degree contingent. It is these “realities” that then demand the pragmatics of
which Craver speaks and which Hempel has reluctantly acknowledged.
Dealing with these pragmatics then becomes the focus for the next section of our text.
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