Discussion Questions on Richard Miller's View of Explanation


1.   What, according to Miller, is a scientific explanation of a particular event?  How should one explain laws or regularities?  What about non-causal explanations, such as explanations in mathematics?

2.  What, according to Miller, is it for one event to be a cause of another?   How does his theory account for our ability to employ empirical evidence to determine whether or not there are causal connections between events?

3.  What is a "standard causal pattern" in a discipline?  Why is it important to know what the standard causal pattern is?  If there is a causal relationship between X and Y, yet that relationship does not conform to a standard causal pattern in the relevant discipline, can one still cite X to explain Y?  What determines the set of standard causal patterns withing a discipline?

4.  What are the similarities and differences between Miller's standard causal patterns and Kitcher's basic argument patterns?

5.  To what extent are Miller's and van Fraassen's views on scientific explanation compatible?

6.  Miller describes two ways in which explanations -- even explanations that conform to a standard causal pattern -- can fail to be "deep."  What are they?  Why should we prefer deeper explanations to shallower explanations?

7.  According to Miller's view, in what ways is scientific explanation objective?   In what ways does scientific explanation fail to be objective?

8.  How does Miller's theory address the problems of relevance, rejections, and asymmetry?

9.  Why does Miller make such extensive use of examples from history and the social sciences?