Criteria of Merit for Explanations of Individual Events

L. Jonathan Cohen

in The Probable and The Provable

Published in print December 1977 | ISBN: 9780198244127
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680748 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy

Criteria of Merit for Explanations of Individual Events

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This chapter explores the criteria of merit for explanations of individual events. It first introduces Hempel's theory of explanation for individual events. The covering laws for both proofs and explanations are reviewed. Apart from various forms of incompleteness that do not necessarily invalidate what Hempel calls deductive-nomological explanation, there is also a kind of insufficiency in the statement of explanatory conditions that according to Hempel renders an attempt at such explanation merely programmatic. But this is paradoxical and the paradox can be avoided by recognizing that the adequacy of the explanation varies with its inductive probability. In explaining individual events, it does not need to aim at maximum comprehensiveness in the covering laws invoked, as when uniformities are explained: rather, the more adequate the explanation, the more heavily qualified the covering law is likely to be.

Keywords: theory of explanation; Hempel; individual events; covering laws; proofs; inductive probability

Chapter.  5053 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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