The Pragmatic Character of Explanation

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:275 - 292 (1984)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Theories of explanation are characterized as being either pragmatic or non-pragmatic, without a clear sense of what this is supposed to mean. The present paper offers a definition of a "pragmatic explanation-sentence", and in terms of this, of a "pragmatic theory of explanation". It is argued that van Fraassen's theory of explanation, despite claims to the contrary, is not genuinely pragmatic. By contrast, the author's own "illocutionary" theory is pragmatic. Attention is devoted particularly to sentences of the form "E is a good explanation of q", which, it is urged, are pragmatic in a strong sense. In defense of this claim, and of the advantages of a pragmatic account generally, appeal is made to Rutherford's 1911 subatomic explanation of the results of his scattering experiments. Implications of a pragmatic theory are drawn for the debate between realists and anti-realists and absolutists and relativists.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,069

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

On Pragmatic and Scientific Explanation: Comments on Achinstein's and Salmon's Papers.Sylvain Bromberger - 1984 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:306 - 325.
On pragmatic and non-pragmatic concept of explanation.Eugen Zeleňák - 2006 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 13 (3):334-348.
The pragmatic theory of explanation.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1988 - In Joseph C. Pitt (ed.), Theories of Explanation. Oxford University Press.
Positivism and the Pragmatic Theory of Observation.Thomas Oberdan - 1990 - PSA Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990 (1):25-37.
Pragmatic or Pascalian Encroachment?Andy Mueller - 2017 - Logos and Episteme 8 (2):235-241.
Empiricism, Objectivity, and Explanation.Elisabeth A. Lloyd & Carl G. Anderson - 1993 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 18 (1):121-131.


Added to PP

96 (#184,245)

6 months
4 (#863,607)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Peter Achinstein
Johns Hopkins University

Citations of this work

Explanation.Martin Glazier - 2020 - In Michael J. Raven (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Metaphysical Grounding. London: pp. 121-132.
Understanding Brute Facts.Ludwig Fahrbach - 2005 - Synthese 145 (3):449-466.
Competition Theory and Channeling Explanation.Christopher H. Eliot - 2011 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 3 (20130604):1-16.

View all 17 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references