Causes and Explanations


in The Freedom of the Will

Published in print September 1970 | ISBN: 9780198243434
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680687 | DOI:
Causes and Explanations

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The concept of explanation is linked with that of cause, although not identical with it. Explanations are answers. They are answers to questions, asked or anticipated, and in particular to the question ‘Why?’. They characteristically begin with the word ‘because’, although we also explain what we are doing, who our friends are, and how we can bring our plans to fruition. There cannot be any exact account of explanation. Although it is not true that any answer will do, it is often the case that more than one answer might do, and we cannot lay down in advance exactly what answers are admissible in any given case. We rely not on antecedent specification of the answer required but on subsequent elucidation, by further question and answer, until a satisfactory one has been elicited.

Keywords: explanation; cause; answers

Chapter.  1641 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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