Dissecting explanatory power

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http://hdl.handle.net/10138/232100

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Ylikoski , P K & Kuorikoski , J 2010 , ' Dissecting explanatory power ' , Philosophical Studies : an international journal for philosophy in the analytic tradition , vol. 148 , pp. 201-219 .

Title: Dissecting explanatory power
Author: Ylikoski, Petri K; Kuorikoski, Jaakko
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Department of Political and Economic Studies (2010-2017)
Date: 2010
Language: eng
Belongs to series: Philosophical Studies : an international journal for philosophy in the analytic tradition
ISSN: 0031-8116
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/232100
Abstract: 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.
Subject: 611 Philosophy
explanation
understanding
explanatory power
inference to the best explanation
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