Van Fraassen on Explanation

Wesley C. Salmon and Philip Kitcher

in Causality and Explanation

Published in print May 1998 | ISBN: 9780195108644
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833627 | DOI:
Van Fraassen on Explanation

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Coauthored by Philip Kitcher, deals critically with the view – whose most influential proponent is Bas van Fraassen – that the traditional problems of scientific explanation can be resolved by means of pragmatic considerations alone. This approach, elaborated in 1980 in The Scientific Image, has found much favor among philosophers of science. As this chapter reveals, however, the traditional problems do not disappear when the resources of pragmatics are brought to bear. The authors show that if van Fraassen introduces constraints that allow him to avoid the “anything goes” theory of explanation, then he must face what he would regard as the unacceptable supposition that there is an objective virtue of theories distinct from their saving of the phenomena.

Keywords: explanation; van Fraassen; Kitcher; pragmatics; The Scientific Image; theories

Chapter.  7221 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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