Discussion Questions on Causal Views of Explanation


1.  What is the "standard diagnosis" of explanatory asymmetries, and why (according to Hausman) is it insufficiently informative?

2.  How does a pragmatic theory of explanation account for the special significance to explanation of identifying causes?  Is this account of the connection between causation and explanation satisfactory?  Why might one want more?

3.  What does Salmon mean by an "ontic" conception of causation?

4.  According to van Fraassen, the only thing that distinguishes "explanatory information" from merely descriptive information is that the first is relevant to the explanatory questions people answer.  Apart from the interests of human beings, there is no difference.  Salmon disagrees.  What does he take specifically explanatory information or knowledge to consist in?

5.  In the top paragraph on p. 132, Salmon writes "This is the point at which I find van Fraassen's pragmatic view untenable."  What is this point and why does Salmon disagree?  Who is right?

6.  What is the difference between what Salmon calls "constitutive explanations" and "etiological explanations?"

7.  As Michael Friedman and Philip Kitcher both emphasize, much of scientific explanation takes the form of explaining regularities or laws rather than explaining particular events.   Causal relations, on the other hand, appear to link particular token events.  Doesn't this imply that a great deal of explanation in the sciences cannot be causal?  How do Salmon and Lewis respond to this difficulty?

8.  In Salmon's view (p. 276), what is the connection between an ontic conception of explanation and unification?

9.  What does Lewis think of concerns with the pragmatics of explanation or the links between explanation and understanding (pp. 227-8)?

10.  What is Lewis' attitude toward the D-N model?