A Third Dogma of Empiricism

Wesley C. Salmon

in Causality and Explanation

Published in print May 1998 | ISBN: 9780195108644
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833627 | DOI:
A Third Dogma of Empiricism

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Challenges the widely held thesis that scientific explanations are arguments (the “third dogma”) by posing three questions that seem to raise difficulties for it: (1) Why are irrelevancies harmless to arguments but fatal to explanations? (2) Can events whose probabilities are low be explained? Or, to reformulate essentially the same question, is genuine scientific explanation possible if indeterminism is true? (3) Why should requirements of temporal asymmetry be imposed upon explanations but not upon arguments?

In addition to showing the untenability of the “third dogma,” this chapter signals the development of a causal theory of explanation that will supplement the simple statistical‐relevance (S‐R) model of explanation advocated in earlier works by the author.

Keywords: asymmetry; empiricism; explanation; indeterminism; relevance; statistical‐relevance model of explanation; third dogma

Chapter.  6904 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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