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The New Mechanical Philosophy$
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Stuart Glennan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198779711

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198779711.001.0001

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Mechanistic and Otherwise

(p.211) 8 Explanation
The New Mechanical Philosophy

Stuart Glennan

Oxford University Press

This concluding chapter offers an abstract account of explanation as such, arguing that explanations involve the construction of models that always show what the targets of explanation depend upon (dependence), and sometimes show how multiple targets depend upon similar things (unification). It then suggests, in light of this account, how Salmon’s three conceptions of scientific explanation are not alternative conceptions, but are in fact complementary aspects of successful explanation. Explanations of natural phenomena are then divided into three kinds—bare causal, mechanistic, and non-causal. Bare causal explanations show what depends upon what, while mechanistic explanations show how those dependencies arise. Non-causal explanations in various forms show non-causal dependencies, which arise from features of the space in which mechanisms act.

Keywords:   causal explanation, mechanistic explanation, non-causal explanation, dependence, unification, models

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