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PHIL202: Philosophy of Science

Unit 3: Scientific Reasoning   “When playing Russian roulette, the fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next.” [1]

Science allows us to describe, predict, and explain what happens in the world around us.  Theories, and other representational vehicles, are central to these tasks.  But how do scientists develop these theories?  What, if anything, determines that scientists ought to accept a theory rather than reject it, or accept one theory rather than another?  And how do scientific theories help us to understand the world in a way that non-scientific theories do not?  Answering these questions involves attending to the different methods of inductive reasoning, understanding the confirmation relation between facts and theories, and identifying the distinctive features of scientific explanations.  While there are a variety of philosophical views about these issues, none of the views are problem-free.  Accordingly, you should adopt an exploratory and critical attitude toward the content in this unit: first seek to understand each view, and then seek to understand its limitations.


[1] Richard P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 1999), 155.

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 27.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 7 hours
 

☐    Readings: 5 hours

☐    Assessment 3: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 10 hours
 

☐    Readings: 8 hours

☐    Assessment 4: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 3.3: 10.5 hours
 

☐    Readings: 8.5 hours

☐    Assessment 5: 2 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Describe and apply different kinds of inductive reasoning: enumerative induction, Mill’s methods, and Whewell’s “colligation of facts.” - Describe the problem of induction. - Summarize and assess potential solutions to the problem of induction. - Compare different accounts of confirmation: falsificationism, Bayesianism, error statistics, and bootstrapping. - Assess different accounts of confirmation. - Compare different accounts of explanation: nomological, causal, unification, pragmatic, and mechanistic. - Assess different accounts of explanation.

3.1 Induction   3.1.1 Enumerative Induction   - Reading: John Norton’s A Survey of Inductive Generalization, “Section 1 – Enumerative Induction” Link: John Norton’s A Survey of Inductive Generalization, “Section 1 – Enumerative Induction” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and then find the
term “download” at the top of the page after “A Survey of Inductive
Generalization.”  Click on the “download” hyperlink in order to open
the PDF.  Read pages 4-16.  

 In this selection from *A Survey of Inductive Generalization*, John
Norton discusses *enumerative induction*, a common method of
scientific reasoning that purports to warrant inferences from some
sample (such as an experiment) to a larger population.  Norton
provides several examples of enumerative inductions that support
scientific knowledge, traces a partial history of the way in which
prior logicians understood enumerative induction, and briefly
discusses some variant forms of enumerative induction.  

 As you read, attempt to answer the following questions: What is the
general pattern of an enumerative induction?  What are some
significant scientific hypotheses that seem to have been inferred by
enumerative induction?  What are some ways in which enumerative
inductions yield hypotheses that “go beyond” their evidential
basis?  What are some variant forms of enumerative induction, and
how do they compare to the standard form in terms of their strength
and reliability?  

 Reading this selection and answering these questions should take
approximately 1 hour.  

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3.1.2 Mill’s Methods   - Reading: John Norton’s A Survey of Inductive Generalization: “Section 3 – Inferring to Causes: Bacon’s Tables and Mill’s Methods”; and Critical Thinking Web: “Mill’s Methods” Link: John Norton’s A Survey of Inductive Generalization: “Section 3 – Inferring to Causes: Bacon’s Tables and Mill’s Methods” (HTML); and Critical Thinking Web: “Mill’s Methods” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on first link above, and then find the
term “download” at the top of the page after “A Survey of Inductive
Generalization.”  Click on the “download” hyperlink in order to open
the PDF file.  Read pages 34-40.  

 Please click on the second link above and read the webpage in its
entirety.  

 In the selection from *A Survey of Inductive Generalization*, John
Norton discusses *Mill’s methods*, a set of informal rules, first
proposed by the philosopher John Stuart Mill, which purport to
warrant inferences about the causes of various phenomena.  Norton
explains why these methods (or something like them) are important to
scientific inquiry, provides examples that illustrate each of Mill’s
methods, and briefly discusses the range of applicability of these
methods.  The content from Critical Thinking Web supplements
Norton’s discussion with more examples, visual aids, and some brief
comments on the limitations of Mill’s methods.  

 As you read these materials, attempt to answer the following
questions: What are Mill’s methods?  How do Mill’s methods differ
from enumerative induction?  What are some significant scientific
hypotheses that seem to have been inferred using Mill’s methods? 
What are some ways in which inferences that involve Mill’s methods
yield hypotheses that “go beyond” their evidential basis?  

 Reading these selections and answering these questions should take
approximately 1 hour.  

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displayed on the pages above.

3.1.3 Colligation   - Reading: University of Wisconsin-Madison: Malcolm R. Forster and Ann Wolfe’s “The Whewell-Mill Debate in a Nutshell” Link: University of Wisconsin-Madison: Malcolm R. Forster and Ann Wolfe’s “The Whewell-Mill Debate in a Nutshell” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the article
in its entirety.  

 Forster and Wolfe provide helpful context for understanding the
significance of Mill and Whewell’s disagreement about the nature of
inductive inference in science.  They explain how the differing
conceptions of induction lead to differing interpretations of the
reasoning Johannes Kepler used to discover Mars’ elliptical orbit,
argue that the disagreement between Mill and Whewell is not merely
terminological, and defend the thesis that Whewell’s conception of
induction is superior to Mill’s.  

 As you read, attempt to answer the following questions: What are
some points of disagreement between Mill and Whewell regarding the
nature of induction?  How does Mill interpret Kepler’s reasoning? 
How does Whewell interpret that reasoning?  Why, according to
Forster and Wolfe, is Whewell’s interpretation superior to Mill’s?  

 Reading this article and answering these questions should take
approximately 1 hour.  

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  • Reading: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: William Whewell’s “Of Certain Characteristics of Scientific Induction” Link: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: William Whewell’s “Of Certain Characteristics of Scientific Induction” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read pages 138-144.

    John Stuart Mill, in addition to proposing his methods for causal inference (Mill’s methods), also maintained that induction – understood as enumerative induction – was an important component of scientific reasoning.  Writing in response to Mill, William Whewell proposed an alternative conception of induction, understood as “a Colligation of Facts by means of an exact and appropriate Conception.”  The primary difference between Whewell’s and Mill’s conceptions of induction is that for Whewell, but not for Mill, induction unites a set of facts by means of a novel concept, so that induction involves invention in addition to generalization.  This reading excerpt from Whewell elaborates upon, and provides examples to illustrate, this alternative conception of induction.

    As you read, attempt to answer the following questions: What is a “colligation of facts”?  What are some significant scientific examples of such colligations?  What are some ways in which inductions involving a colligation of facts “go beyond” their evidential basis?

    Reading this selection and answering these questions should take approximately 1 hour.

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3.1.4 The Problem of Induction   - Reading: Early Modern Texts: David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, “Section 4 – Sceptical Doubts about the Operations of the Understanding”; and Gideon Rosen’s “The Problem of Induction” Link: Early Modern Texts: David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, “Section 4 – Sceptical Doubts about the Operations of the Understanding” (HTML); and Gideon Rosen’s “The Problem of Induction” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the first link above.  Open the PDF
labeled “Sections 1 through 5,” and scroll down to page 11 to find
the beginning of Section 4.  Read the section in its entirety (pages
11-18).  

 Please click on the second link above and read the essay in its
entirety.  

 In Section 4 of his famous *Enquiry Concerning Human
Understanding*, Hume develops an argument that has come to be known
as the *problem of induction*.  Dividing the objects of human reason
(that is, the statements upon which we rely in our reasoning) into
two classes, he argues that objects in the first class – relations
of ideas – can be known by mere thought without the assistance of
sensory experience, while objects in the second class – matters of
fact – cannot.  He then proceeds to ask how we come to know objects
of this second class.  His answer, “by experience,” leads to a
further question concerning the nature of inferences from
experience.  For most of Part 1, Hume rejects various proposals
about the nature of these inferences (nowadays known as inductive
inferences); and in Part 2, he argues that we have no reason to be
confident of the results of these inferences.  Attempt to understand
Hume’s reasoning on your own.  Use Gideon Rosen’s “The Problem of
Induction” to check the adequacy of your understanding, or to assist
you in discerning Hume’s argument.  

 Attempt to answer the following questions: What is the difference
between a *matter of fact* and a *relation of ideas*, and what are
some examples that illustrate this difference?  According to Hume,
how do we typically form opinions about unobserved matters of fact? 
According to Hume, why does the way we typically form opinions about
observed matters of fact fail to give us good reason to believe that
our opinions are likely to be true?  Why does Hume’s “solution” to
the problem of induction not entail that we have just as much reason
to accept scientific beliefs as we have for accepting religious
beliefs based upon mere faith?  

 Studying these resources and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour.  

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displayed on the webpages above.

3.1.5 Review of Induction   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 3” Link: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 3” (PDF)

 Instructions: This assessment will ask you to explain Hume’s
problem of induction and the significance of that problem for the
reliability of enumerative induction, Mill’s methods, and
colligation.  Use the [“Assessment 3 – Guide to
Responding”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/PHIL202-Unit3-Assessment3-Guide-FINAL.pdf)
(PDF) to help you.  Please check your essays against the
[“Assessment 3 – Self-Assessment
Rubric”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/PHIL202-Unit3-Assessment3-Rubric-FINAL.pdf)
(PDF).  

 Completing this assessment will take approximately 2 hours.  

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displayed on the webpage above.

3.2 Confirmation   3.2.1 Falsificationism   - Reading: Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Comments on Popperian Falsificationism” Link: Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Comments on Popperian Falsificationism” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the essay in
its entirety.  

 This essay provides an overview of Karl Popper’s falsificationism. 
Read it to help in understanding Popper’s essay, but also read it
for its application of Popper’s view to the problem of the
theory-ladenness of observation and for its brief summary of
prominent criticisms of falsificationism.  

 Reading this essay and relating it to prior material will take
approximately 1 hour.  

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  • Reading: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Karl Popper” (HTML) Link: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Karl Popper” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this article, focusing on section V.

    Ask a typical scientist to express their views about the nature of science and, more likely than not, you will hear ideas found in Karl Popper’s writings.  In this selection, Popper addresses two issues: first, the difference between science and pseudo-science (associated with what is known as the demarcation problem); second, the nature of scientific reasoning (associated with what is known as the problem of induction).

    In Section I of Science: Conjectures and Refutations, Popper defends falsificationism, the thesis that the distinguishing mark of scientific knowledge is its ability to be refuted (or falsified).  After applying this thesis in Section II to argue that astrology, psychoanalysis, and similar theories are not scientific, in Section III Popper argues that the problem of induction is a pseudo-problem.

    As you read this selection, attempt to answer the following questions: Why does Popper maintain that falsifiability distinguishes science from pseudo-science?  Why does Popper reject Hume’s problem of induction as a pseudo-problem?

    Reading this essay and answering these questions will take approximately 1 hour.

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3.2.2 The Duhem Problem / The Quine-Duhem Thesis   - Reading: Error Statistics Philosophy Blog: Deborah Mayo’s “Duhemian Problems of Falsification”; and Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Holism” Link: Error Statistics Philosophy Blog: Deborah Mayo’s “Duhemian Problems of Falsification” (HTML); and Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Holism” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the first link above and read all of
the content under “5. Duhemian Problems of Falsification.”  

 Please click on the second link above and the webpage in its
entirety.  

 Mayo and Folse elaborate on a thesis about hypothesis testing first
developed by the French physicist Pierre Duhem.  This thesis, known
as the *Duhem problem* or the *Quine-Duhem thesis* (after Willard
Van Orman Quine, a twentieth-century American philosopher who
popularized Duhem’s objection), constitutes a powerful challenge to
Popper’s falsificationism.  It thereby undermines Popper’s claim to
have successfully dismissed David Hume’s problem of induction.  

 As you read these entries, attempt to answer the following
questions: What is the Duhem problem?  Why does Duhem’s problem show
that falsificationism is incorrect?  

 Reading these entries and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour.  

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displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.3 Bayesianism   - Reading: Trinity University: Curtis Brown’s “An Introduction to Bayes’ Theorem” and the University of Hong Kong’s Critical Thinking Web: “Bayesian Confirmation” Link: Trinity University: Curtis Brown’s “An Introduction to Bayes’ Theorem” (HTML); and the University of Hong Kong’s Critical Thinking Web: “Bayesian Confirmation” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read each essay above in its entirety.  

 In light of the problem of induction and the Duhem problem, many
philosophers of science adopted the view that, even if we have no
reason for confidence in the results of inductive inferences,
nonetheless we can have reasons to believe that scientific evidence
supports some scientific hypotheses better than others.  Attempts to
understand the nature of this support relation between evidence and
hypothesis are known as “accounts of confirmation.”  Of these
accounts of confirmation, Bayesianism is perhaps the most popular. 
According to Bayesianism, a theorem of the probability calculus –
known as Bayes’ Theorem – determines how much support evidence
provides to a hypothesis.  

 Read Curtis Brown’s “An Introduction to Bayes’ Theorem” for an
explanation of the mathematical theorem at the heart of
Bayesianism.  (To test your understanding, click on the links at the
top of Brown’s webpage – “Confirmation 1: Marbles” and “Confirmation
2: ESP” – for some Java-based interactive examples.)  After you are
comfortable with the meaning of Bayes’ theorem, proceed to the essay
“Bayesian Confirmation” to read about the Bayesian account of
confirmation.  

 As you read these essays, attempt to answer the following
questions: What does Bayes’ Theorem say – not just in mathematical
terms, but in plain language?  What is the Bayesian account of
confirmation?  How does the Bayesian account of confirmation differ
from falsificationism?  How does the Bayesian account of
confirmation explain how we might have reason to believe that
scientific evidence supports some scientific hypotheses better than
others?  

 Studying these essays and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.4 Error Statistics   - Reading: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: Deborah Mayo’s “Models of Error and the Limits of Experimental Testing”; and Cosma Shalizi’s “We Have Ways of Making You Talk, or, Long Live Peircism-Popperism-Neyman-Pearson Thought!” Link: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: Deborah Mayo’s “Models of Error and the Limits of Experimental Testing” (HTML); and Cosma Shalizi’s “We Have Ways of Making You Talk, or, Long Live Peircism-Popperism-Neyman-Pearson Thought!” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the first link above and read the
chapter in its entirety.  You will have to scroll pages using the
“prev” and “next” icons at the bottom of the page.  

 Please click on the second link above and read the review in its
entirety.  

 Rejecting falsificationism for being too limited in scope to
account for scientific inference, and Bayesianism for being too
permissive to capture the nuances of relationships between evidence
and hypotheses in scientific practice, Deborah Mayo advocates an
*error-statistical* account of confirmation.  This account requires
not only that evidence make a hypothesis more likely to be true than
competing hypotheses, but also that the experimental procedures used
to obtain that evidence be reliable in assigning that degree of
likelihood to the hypothesis.  In the book being reviewed, Mayo
explains some of the details of her account.  The review by Shalizi,
a professional physicist, summarizes and contextualizes Mayo’s
error-statistical account, giving examples to illustrate some
technical ideas and situating Mayo’s account within the history of
philosophy of science.  

 As you read this material, attempt to answer the following
questions: Why does Mayo maintain that Bayesianism is too permissive
to capture the nuances of relationships between evidence and
hypotheses in scientific practice?  What is the error-statistical
account of confirmation?  How does this account differ from both
falsificationism and Bayesianism?  How does the error-statistical
account of confirmation explain how we might have reason to believe
that scientific evidence supports some scientific hypotheses better
than others?  

 Reading this material and answering these questions will take
approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.5 Bootstrapping   - Reading: John Norton’s A Survey of Inductive Generalization: “Section 7 – Glymour’s Bootstrap” Link: John Norton’s A Survey of Inductive Generalization: “Section 7 – Glymour’s Bootstrap” (HTML)

 Instructions: Click on the link above and find the download link at
the top of the page after “A Survey of Inductive Generalization.” 
Click on the download link in order to open the PDF.  Read pages
83-104.  

 Clark Glymour generalizes Mill’s methods into a “bootstrap” account
of confirmation that allows theories to be used in interpreting the
evidence that is supposed to confirm them.  Norton’s chapter
summarizes and illustrates this account, explaining the technical
details of Glymour’s formal definitions with informal prose and
appealing to some famous arguments by Newton (among others) to show
how to apply Glymour’s account.  

 As you read this material, attempt to answer the following
questions: What is the bootstrap account of confirmation?  How does
it differ from Bayesianism?  How does it differ from simple
inductive enumeration?  What are some significant scientific
hypotheses that seem to have been inferred by enumerative
induction?  Why is the “circularity” involved in bootstrap
confirmation not harmful?  How does the bootstrap account of
confirmation explain how we might have reason to believe that
scientific evidence supports some scientific hypotheses better than
others?  

 Reading this chapter will take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.6 The Raven’s Paradox   - Reading: University of Notre Dame OpenCourseWare: “Paradoxes of Confirmation” Link: University of Notre Dame OpenCourseWare: “Paradoxes of Confirmation” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the
introductory section, as well as the sections for “Paradox of the
ravens” and “Bayes Theorem.”  

 These lecture notes, like the above Encyclopedia of Science entry,
offer a (slightly more technical) review of the raven’s paradox and
a (slightly more technical) Bayesian solution to that paradox.  Read
it to deepen your understanding of the formal aspects of the paradox
and the Bayesian solution.  

 Reading this note will take approximately 30 minutes.  

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displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: The Encyclopedia of Science: David Darling’s “Raven Paradox” Link: The Encyclopedia of Science: David Darling’s “Raven Paradox” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entry in its entirety.

    This entry, after briefly reviewing the raven’s paradox, offers a Bayesian solution to the raven’s paradox, according to which the reasoning that leads to the paradox is mistaken by virtue of relying upon an incorrect principle of induction.

    Reading this entry will take approximately 15 minutes.

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  • Reading: Math Academy Online: “Hempel’s Ravens Paradox” Link: Math Academy Online: “Hempel’s Ravens Paradox” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entry in its entirety.

    This entry presents the “raven’s paradox.”  First proposed by Carl Hempel, this paradox purports to show that any evidence that does not falsify a hypothesis confirms that hypothesis.  The paradox presents a challenge to accounts of confirmation: either show why the reasoning that leads to the “paradox” is mistaken, or else explain away the paradox by showing that the conclusion of the reasoning is not as counterintuitive as it seems to be.  Proposals to meet this challenge are known as “solutions” to the raven’s paradox.

    Reading this entry will take approximately 15 minutes.

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3.2.7 Review of Confirmation   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 4” Link: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 4” (PDF)

 Instructions: This assessment will ask you to describe the
differences between the falsificationist and Bayesian accounts of
confirmation, to explain how each of these accounts purports to
solve the problem of induction, and to critically compare the two
accounts.  Use the [“Assessment 4 – Guide to
Responding”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/PHIL202-Unit3-Assessment4-Guide-Final.pdf)
(PDF) to help you.  Please check your essays against the
[“Assessment 4 – Self-Assessment
Rubric”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/PHIL202-Unit3-Assessment4-Rubric-Final.pdf)
(PDF).  

 Completing this assessment will take approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

3.3 Explanation   3.3.1 Deductive-Nomological Account   - Reading: California Polytechnic State University: Carl G. Hempel’s “Studies in the Logic of Explanation” Link: California Polytechnic State University: Carl G. Hempel’s “Studies in the Logic of Explanation” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the essay in its entirety.
 
While accounts of confirmation address the way in which evidence about natural phenomena bear upon hypotheses about those phenomena, accounts of explanation address the way in which hypotheses about natural phenomena bear upon those phenomena.  That is, while accounts of confirmation attempt to explicate the notion of support (the way in which evidence supports hypotheses), accounts of explanation attempt to explicate the notion of explanation (the way in which hypotheses explain phenomena).  Carl Hempel was the first contemporary philosopher of science to offer a comprehensive and detailed account of scientific explanation.  This account applies to explanations of particular events as well as explanations of general laws; and it applies to explanations from disciplines as diverse as physics, biology, psychology, economics, sociology, and linguistics.
 
According to Hempel, while scientific descriptions answer the question “what?”, scientific explanations answer the question “why?”  And the way they answer this question, according to Hempel, is by subsuming the target of the explanation under a general law, such that a statement of the law, together with other true statements of other auxiliary hypotheses, deductively entails a description of the explanation’s target.  Because deductions and laws (Greek: nomos) are central to Hempel’s account, it is known as the deductive-nomological account of explanation.  Hempel’s essay offers examples that motivate and illustrate how this account works, addresses objections to the effect that the account does not apply to explanations of purposive behavior, considers and rejects alternative accounts of explanation that appeal to familiarity or a sense of understanding, and offers an analysis of the characteristics of lawlike statements.
 
As you read this chapter, attempt to answer the following question: What, according to Hempel, is the proper way to reconstruct scientists’ answers to “why” questions?  What are some examples of explanations that fit Hempel’s account of explanation?  What is the scope of Hempel’s account – that is, to what explanations in which disciplines does his account apply?
 
Reading this chapter and answering these questions will take approximately 1.5 hours.

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  • Reading: Iowa State University: Lyle Zynda’s “Lecture 2 – The Inferential View of Scientific Explanation” Link: Iowa State University: Lyle Zynda’s “Lecture 2 – The Inferential View of Scientific Explanation” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the notes in their entirety.

    This set of lecture notes explains and illustrates the key ideas of Hempel’s deductive-nomological account of explanation.  The notes also present two problems that purport to show that Hempel’s account fails to capture important elements of scientific explanation, by virtue of classifying as explanatory some deductive arguments that, intuitively, are not explanatory.

    Reading these notes will take approximately 30 minutes.

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  • Reading: Ohio State University: Neil Tennant’s “The Logical Structure of Scientific Explanation and Prediction: Planetary Orbits in a Sun’s Gravitational Field” Link: Ohio State University: Neil Tennant’s “The Logical Structure of Scientific Explanation and Prediction: Planetary Orbits in a Sun’s Gravitational Field” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above.  Then, under the header for “Articles,” scroll down to find “The Logical Structure of Scientific Explanation and Prediction: Planetary Orbits in a Sun’s Gravitational Field.”  Click on that link to open a PDF.  Read the article in its entirety, for an extended reconstruction of a scientific explanation that fits the hypothetical-deductive account of explanation.

    Reading this article will take approximately 1 hour.

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3.3.2 Causal Account   - Reading: Iowa State University: Lyle Zynda’s “Lecture 3 – The Causal Theory of Explanation, Part I”; “Lecture 4 – The Causal Theory of Explanation, Part II”; “Lecture 5 – The Causal Theory of Explanation, Part III”; and “Lecture 6 – Problems with the Causal Theory of Explanation” Link: Iowa State University: Lyle Zynda’s “Lecture 3 – The Causal Theory of Explanation, Part  I” (HTML); “Lecture 4 – The Causal Theory of Explanation, Part II” (HTML); “Lecture 5 – The Causal Theory of Explanation, Part III” (HTML); and  “Lecture 6 – Problems with the Causal Theory of Explanation” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click, in sequence, on each of the above links
and read the notes in their entirety.  

 One prominent reaction to the problems that beset Hempel’s
deductive-nomological account of explanation involves rejecting a
fundamental presupposition of that account—namely, the idea that
explanations of phenomena provide information sufficient for
prediction of those phenomena.  The philosopher of science Wesley
Salmon pursued this strategy by proposing, instead, that
explanations need only provide information that makes phenomena more
likely to occur than not.  Because information about causal
relations between events turns out to be extremely important
according to this proposal, Salmon’s view is a kind of causal
account of explanation.  (David Lewis, another philosopher, offered
a similar account, but Salmon’s came first and has been discussed
more by philosophers of science.)  

 Part I of this series of lectures motivates Salmon’s approach to
explanation and summarizes Salmon’s reasons for supposing that
explanations must involve causal information.  Part II provides some
of the technical details of Salmon’s causal account, explaining the
notions of *statistical relevance*, *causal process*, and *causal
interaction* mentioned in Part I.  When reading Part II, recall the
ideas about probability from the subunit on Bayesianism: you should
read notation like “Pr(E|C)” and “Pr(C)” as, respectively, “the
probability of E given C” and “the probability of C.”  Part III
turns a critical eye toward Salmon’s account, contrasting Salmon’s
account with Hempel’s while also presenting some problems with the
details of Salmon’s account.  Finally, “Problems with the Causal
Theory of Explanation” presents and illustrates some problems
concerning the range of applicability of causal accounts of
explanation.  

 As you read these notes, attempt to answer the following questions:
What is the causal account of explanation?  What problems for
Hempel’s account of explanation does the causal account aim to
avoid?  How does it avoid these problems?  What are some examples of
explanations that fit the causal account of explanation?  

 Reading this series of notes and answering these questions will
take approximately 2 hours.  

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  • Reading: The Information Philosopher: “Causality” Link: The Information Philosopher: “Causality” (HTML)

    Instructions: In case the readings about the causal account of explanation leave you a bit mystified about what the philosophers are trying to discern, this resource provides some quick background information about the notion of causation. Read the material in order to familiarize yourself with the way in which scientists think about causation, and be sure to compare scientists' informal notion of causation with the philosophically more sophisticated notion on display in the causal account of explanation.

    Reviewing this material and relating it to the readings on the casual account of explanation should approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to the Information Philosopher.

3.3.3 Unification Account   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: James Woodward’s “A Unificationist Account of Explanation” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: James Woodward’s “A Unificationist Account of Explanation” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Section 5, “A
Unificationist Account of Explanation,” in its entirety.  

 Given the problems that beset causal accounts of explanation, and
the lingering difficulties with deductive-nomological accounts of
explanation, some philosophers of science developed yet a third kind
of account of explanation.  These accounts focus on the idea that
explanations unify a wide array of phenomena that, apart from the
unifying explanation, would have been thought to be unrelated. 
Woodward’s encyclopedia entry on these unificationist accounts of
explanation elaborates upon this basic idea, illustrates the account
and the account’s solutions to the problems with the
deductive-nomological account, and briefly discusses the relation
between causal and unificationist accounts of explanation.  The
entry then turns to a brief survey of the key criticisms of the
unificationist account.  

 As you read this entry, attempt to answer the following questions:
What is the unification account of explanation?  What problems for
Hempel’s account of explanation does the unification account aim to
avoid?  How does it avoid these problems?  What are some examples of
explanations that fit the unification account of explanation?  

 Reading this section and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

3.3.4 Pragmatic Account   - Reading: Iowa State University: Lyle Zynda’s “Lecture 7 – Van Fraassen’s Pragmatic View of Explanation” Link: Iowa State University: Lyle Zynda’s “Lecture 7 – Van Fraassen’s Pragmatic View of Explanation” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the notes in
their entirety.  

 These short lecture notes summarize the central ideas of the
pragmatic account of explanation and contrast this account with
causal accounts of explanation.  The notes mention, but do not
elaborate upon, the “Tower example.”  This refers to the short story
by Bas van Fraassen (an advocate of the pragmatic account) that
appears in Chapter 5, “The Pragmatics of Explanation,” of his *The
Scientific Image*.  The story, briefly, motivates a situation in
which the answer to “Why is the tower so high?” is “Because the
shadow needed to be so long.”  The story is meant to be relevant to
the problem of asymmetry that besets the deductive-nomological
account of explanation, according to which the height of a tower can
explain the length of the shadow it casts, but the length of the
shadow cannot explain the height of the tower.  

 Reading these notes will take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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3.3.5 Mechanistic Account   - Reading: Philosophical Disquisitions Blog: John Danaher’s “Thinking about Mechanisms (Part 1): An Introduction to Mechanisms”; “Thinking about Mechanisms (Part 2): The Depolarisation Mechanism”; and “Thinking about Mechanisms (Part 3): Hierarchies, Schemata, and Intelligibility” Link: Philosophical Disquisitions Blog: John Danaher’s “Thinking about Mechanisms (Part 1): An Introduction to Mechanisms” (HTML); “Thinking about Mechanisms (Part 2): The Depolarisation Mechanism” (HTML); and “Thinking about Mechanisms (Part 3): Hierarchies, Schemata, and Intelligibility” (HTML)

 Instructions: Click on the above links, and read each post in
sequence.  

 This series of notes explains one of the more recent accounts of
explanation: the mechanistic account.  Specifically, the notes
summarize one of the ground-breaking papers advocating this account,
“Thinking about Mechanisms” by Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, and
Carl Craver.  

 As you read these notes, attempt to answer the following questions:
What is a mechanism?  What is the mechanistic account of
explanation?  How does this account differ from
deductive-nomological and causal accounts of explanation?  What are
some examples of explanations that fit the mechanistic account of
explanation?  

 Reading these notes and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

3.3.6 Review of Explanation   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 5” Link: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 5” (PDF)

 Instructions: This assessment will ask you to interpret, in light
of two different accounts of explanation, Alexander and Zare’s
explanation of why Guinness bubbles fall, and to critically evaluate
the extent to which each of these two accounts illuminate why their
explanation is explanatory.  Use the [“Assessment 5 – Guide to
Responding”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/PHIL202-Unit3-Assessment5-Guide-Final.pdf)
(PDF) to help you.  Please check your essays against the
[“Assessment 5 – Self-Assessment
Rubric”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/PHIL202-Unit3-Assessment5-Rubric-Final.pdf)
(PDF).  

 Completing this assessment will take approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: University of Edinburgh School of Chemistry: Andy Alexander and Dick Zare’s “Do Bubbles in Guinness Go Down?” Link: University of Edinburgh School of Chemistry: Andy Alexander and Dick Zare’s “Do Bubbles in Guinness Go Down?” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above.  Follow the links on the page in order to understand Alexander and Zare’s explanation of why bubbles in Guinness travel downwards.  In particular, follow the links for “Why do the bubbles go down?” and “Link to full paper explaining physics of waves in Guinness (pdf),” and click on some of the circles surrounding the image of the pint glass (left side of page) to watch some videos of the phenomenon being explained.

    Devote approximately 30 minutes to exploring this site.  The following assessment references the information provided here.

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