Philosophy 920: Scientific Explanation

Spring 2008

Presentation Topics

1 Monday, January 28:  Aristotle, medieval, and early modern views of scientific explanation. Occult powers versus mechanisms

2 Monday, February 4:  Newton and the transformation of scientific explanation: a weaker notion of mechanical explanation

3 Monday, February 11:  The deductive-nomological model of explanation (I).  The basic model, its setting, motivation, structure, and plausibility.

4 Monday, February 18: Controversies concerning the deductive-nomological model.

5 Monday, February 25:  Final versus efficient causes, mechanical and functional explanation, and the limits to the deductive-nomological model and its explanatory ideal

6 Monday, March 3: Inductive-statistical explanation

7 Monday, March 10: Salmon's statistical relevance model

8 Monday, March 24:  Conclusions on probabilistic explanation

9 Monday, March 31: Explanations and Why-Questions.  The pragmatic (erotetic) theory of explanation

10 Monday, April 7: Explanation and unification

11 Monday, April 14: Explanatory asymmetries and theories of causal explanation

12 Monday, April 21:  Theories of causal explanation

13 Monday, April 28: Causal explanation, invariance and law

What does Woodward mean by invariance, and why is it so important to his account of explanation? What role do counterfactuals play in explanation? How can the central role of the notion of an intervention be defended?