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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Nature and Efficiency of Explanations, July 12, 2008
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This review is from: Theories of Explanation (Paperback)
This is book discusses the foundations of Explanations in ridiculous detail. Virtually all the possible explanation types are documented from E-Type Explanations to Pragmatic Explanations. The 1948 essay by Carl G. Hempel and Paul Oppenheim, "Studies in the Logic of Explanation", which introduced the Deductive-Nomological (D-N) Model on which most work on scientific explanation was based for the following four decades is found in this anthology and is itself worth the money for the book. This essay laid a good foundation for investigation of explanations. The explanations here are used by scientists and also non scientists alike so people who think that scientific explanations are different from common types of explanations will be astounded to find that they too used these types of explanations everyday.

Here's all the essay titles with their respective authors with a few points that they discuss.

1. Introduction - Joseph Pitt

Success of the sciences, the role of explanations in science

2. Studies in the Logic of Explanation - Carl G. Hempel and Paul Oppenheim

Elementary survey of scientific explanations, basic pattern of scientific explanations, logical and empirical conditions for adequacy, explanations in non-physical sciences and motivational and teleological approaches, levels of explanation and Emergence, problems of the concepts of general laws, logical analysis of laws and explanations, definition of law and explanation for a model language, power of systematic theories, explanation for the power of systematic theories, and a Postscript (1964) by Carl G. Hempel

3. Explanations, Predictions, and Laws - Michael Scriven

Explanations as answers to "why" questions, explanations as "more than" descriptions and "essentially similar" to predictions and as sets of true statements and as involving descriptions of what is to be explained, two conditions and summary of problems, distinction between grounds for explanations and explanations themselves, completeness in explanations.

4. Statistical Explanation and Causality - Wesley C. Salmon

Nature of statistical explanation, problems of causal connections, processes, the 'At-At' Theory of Causal Propagation, causal forks and common causes, conjunctive forks, interactive forks, perfect forks, causal structure of the world

5. A Deductive-Nomological Model of Probabilistic Explanation - Peter Railton

Hempel's Inductive-Statistical Model, Richard C. Jeffrey's critique of Hempel's Inductive-Statistical Model, Deductive-Nomological Model of Probabilistic Explanation and objections to it, epistemic relativity and maximal specificity disowned

6. The Pragmatic Theory of Explanation - Bas C. Van Fraassen

Examples and model, contexts and propositions, logic of questions, a Theory of Why Questions, evaluation of answers, presuppositions and relevance

7. Theoretical Explanations - Wilfred Sellars

Simply the focus here is to talk about explanations of "unobservable" and non-empirical evidence like how many atoms decayed in certain amount of time or how many atoms have reacted in a given non-equilibria reaction.

8. Explanatory Unification - Philip Kitcher

Rise and fall of the Covering Law Model, pragmatic issues, Newtonian Theories, reception of Darwinian Evolutionary Theory, asymmetry, irrelevance, and accidental generalizations, spurious unification

9. Explanation and Scientific Understanding - Michael Friedman

Unification of explanation and understanding

10. The Illocutionary Theory of Explanation - Peter Achinstein

Conditions for the act of explaining, what is an explanation, problem of emphasis, the argument view of explanation, propositions construed as explanatory, Ordered Pair View, No Product View, implications for standard theories of explanation

This book is not that long, but the material is very dense. This book will make you think about the foundations of logic and the efficiency of explanations.

For a complete view of the nature of science and theories please read The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation (2nd edition) and The Structure of Scientific Theories finally please read the Christian lawyer Francis Bacon's Francis Bacon: The New Organon and Related Writings which is to be the foundational text on the "Scientific Method" and it's variants.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explanation = Description + Context, January 10, 2007
This review is from: Theories of Explanation (Paperback)
Theories of Explanation is a fascinating book about the philosophy of science and technology ( S & T), and methodologies for building knowledge and explaining the knowledge building process. While the subject itself is absolutely interesting, the reading is tough, in fact very tough. First, part of the reason is that the book is a collection of papers by different authors, each with a distinct writing. Second, the topical discussions are highly specialized - very deep I should say. Even so, the persistent reader will benefit from the book.

With S & T having become so much a part of everyday life, it is hard to believe that philosophers of S & T still have jobs. Even harder is that scientific knowledge needs an explanation, but that is precisely the point of the book. The central part of the point is that people study science because of the success of science and its technological impact on human life. Yet it is not so clear how to explain what happens. Does technological change lead to scientific change, change in knowledge determine change in science, or are the interactions non-causal? Questions like this one are questions about "the role of explanation" (Chapter 1).

Positivists would assume a strong condition by which knowledge is verifiable explanations. A weak condition has it that knowledge requires only confirmable explanations. Both conditions leave open questions about the truthfulness of verifiable or confirmable explanations. Some philosophers have stepped into this vacuum to define knowledge as simply "true beliefs".

The ten chapters of the book focus on explanation, where explanation, according to the editor of the book, is the "Answer" to the question "Why". Different theories of explanation emerge from this focus: logical explanations, statistical explanations, pragmatic explanations, theoretical explanations, probabilistic explanations, explanations as unifying aids, and the act of explanation. A general agreement is explanation is not the same thing as description. Description = theory + fact, and implies a question. Explanation = description + context, and implies a relative answer. A description is like a formula; two different formulae can give one "answer" as in 2 + 2 = 4 and 8 - 4 = 4, but no matter how vivid the description, without an explanation, the question "Why" has not been answered. In other words all successful explanations are descriptive, but not all successful descriptions are explanatory. This is because the "content" and the "act" of explanation matter.

This is a nice book; reading it requires the reader to hunker down. I had several false starts myself before I read it all. I also decided to keep my copy, just in case.

Amavilah, Author

Modeling Determinants of Income in Embedded Economies

ISBN: 1600210465
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Theories of Explanation
Theories of Explanation by Joseph C. Pitt (Paperback - March 24, 1988)
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