Karimi on explanation

Our last talk before the lunch break was Fraydon Karimi’s “Exploring Explanations”. Fraydon describes his talk as follows:IMG_1396

The aim of this paper is to analyze philosophical models of explanation. I aim to show that the idea of ‘understanding’ has been overlooked in the recent models of both historical and scientific explanation. Often models are formulated to provide explanations of events, but when it comes to the idea of what sort of understanding that is to be generated from that model, not enough attention is given.  I explore the role of understanding in the works of Carl Hempel and William Dray. I show that each of these individuals has their own model of explanation.  These two models from these two individuals each have a different method of providing an explanation. With each explanation being different, this entails that the sort of understanding that is generated from each model would also be different.  This is reason for us to treat these models differently. I conclude by claiming that these two models do not have to be in conflict, instead together they can bypass Kim’s exclusion principle and provide us with a more complete explanatory model.

During the ensuing Q and A, Rebekah Johnston asked: When you compare causes of different sorts, are we talking about different/competing (sets of) causes or do we mean something different by ’causes’ in the two cases?  That is, are we talking about  Aristotlean efficient cause in one case, final cause in another? (Leave it to Rebekah to subtly suggest that Aristotle already had it sorted.)

Neil Campbell delicately inquired about a devastatingly difficult matter: “What are your metaphyscial commitments here?” Neil discussed Kim’s take on internalist views that don’t latch onto veritable causal relations, and pushed Fraydon on his response to causal explanatory exclusion– if the physical is causally complete, what role is there for mental cause?

And Rocky, as always, kept his interlocutor on his toes: “I like your emphasis on  [understanding explanation according to] epistemological needs, but then I’m surprised by your love of Hempel’s DN model of explanation.  I love the DN model, too, but the difference between us is … I think it’s false.” Rocky explained how quantum physics fails to fit the DN model. Fraydon suggested that it depends on what one wants from an explanation, whether it is a good explanation or not. Rocky wanted to know, in the case of quantum physics, is there information we are missing to make explanation complete, or is that we have all the information but don’t understand, or is it that the physicists do understand they just don’t know it?


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