Chapter

The Truth Doesn't Explain Much

Nancy Cartwright

in How the Laws of Physics Lie

Published in print June 1983 | ISBN: 9780198247043
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597152 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198247044.003.0003
 The Truth Doesn't Explain Much

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The standard view of explanation in science—the covering law model—assumes that knowledge of laws lies at the basis of our ability to explain phenomena. But in fact most of the high‐level claims in science are ceteris paribus generalizations, which are false unless certain precise conditions obtain. Given the explanatory force of ceteris paribus generalizations but the paucity of true laws, the covering law model of explanation must be false. There is, it is argued, a trade‐off between truth and explanatory power.

Keywords: ceteris paribus; covering law model; explanation in science; generalization

Chapter.  3496 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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