Topic: “Explanation and Understanding”
The first half of this course will be devoted to a survey of the core literature on scientific explanation. This survey will include the original inferential (Hempel), causal (Salmon), erotetic (Van Fraassen), and unificationist (Kitcher, Friedman) approaches to explanation. We will then to turn more contemporary work, including mechanistic explanation, Streven’s kairetic account, and Woodward’s highly influential counterfactual/interventionist approach. We will also consider a reorientation of philosophical work concerning explanation that I have advocated under the label of a “functionalist perspective”. In the final weeks of the term we will consider recent work on the topic of scientific understanding, drawing from writings by de Regt, Dieks, Mizrahi, Khalidi, Kuorikoski, Ylikoski, and Rice, and consider the links between explanation and understanding.