Three Senses of 'Explanation'

Jonathan WaskanUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Ian HarmonUniversity of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Andrew HigginsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Joseph SpinoUniversity of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Abstract

‘Explanation’ appears to be ambiguous between a representational-artifact, an objective, and a doxastic sense. That the distinctions between the three are still poorly understood we regard as an impediment to progress in the philosophy of science and as a source of the field’s resistance to greater integration with experimental psychology. We begin to elucidate the overlapping contours of the three sense of ‘explanation’ using a variation on Powell & Horne’s Semantic Integration paradigm, showing that both laypeople and scientists regard doxastic explanations as constitutive of representational-artifact, but not of objective, explanations and accuracy as closely connected to objective, but not representational-artifact, explanations.

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