Journal Article

Contrastive explanation and the demons of determinism

C Hitchcock

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 50, issue 4, pages 585-612
Published in print December 1999 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 1999 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/50.4.585
Contrastive explanation and the demons of determinism

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It it tempting to think that if an outcome had some probability of not occurring, then we cannot explain why that outcome in fact occurred. Despite this intuition, most philosophers of science have come to admit the possibility of indeterministic explanation. Yet some of them continue to hold that if an outcome was not determined, it cannot be explained why that outcome rather than some other occurred. I argue that this is an untenable compromise: if indeterministic explanation is possible, then indeterministic contrastive explanation is possible too. In order to defend this conclusion, I develop an account of contrastive explanation.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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