Browsing by Subject "explanatory power"

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  • Ylikoski, Petri K; Kuorikoski, Jaakko (2010)
    Comparisons of rival explanations or theories often involve vague appeals to explanatory power. In this paper, we dissect this metaphor by distinguishing between different dimensions of the goodness of an explanation: non-sensitivity, cognitive salience, precision, factual accuracy and degree of integration. These dimensions are partially independent and often come into conflict. Our main contribution is to go beyond simple stipulation or description by explicating why these factors are taken to be explanatory virtues. We accomplish this by using the contrastive-counterfactual approach to explanation and the view of understanding as an inferential ability. By combining these perspectives, we show how the explanatory power of an explanation in a given dimension can be assessed by showing the range of answers it provides to what-if-things-had-been-different questions and the theoretical and pragmatic importance of these questions. Our account also explains intuitions linking explanation to unification or to exhibition of a mechanism.
  • Niiniluoto, Ilkka (2016)
    According to the traditional requirement, formulated by William Whewell in his account of the "consilience of inductions" in 1840, a scientific hypothesis should have unifying power in the sense that it explains and predicts several mutually independent phenomena. Variants of this notion of consilience or unification include deductive, inductive, and approximate systematization. Inference from surprising phenomena to their theoretical explanations was called abduction by Charles Peirce. As a unifying theory is independently testable by new kinds of phenomena, it should also receive confirmation from its empirical success. The study of the prospects of probabilistic Bayesianism to motivate this kind of criterion for abductive confirmation is shown to lead to two quite distinct conceptions of unification, linking up and screening off, and in both cases the unifying theory can be seen to receive probabilistic support from empirical phenomena.