Scientific explanation and understanding: unificationism reconsidered

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 7 (1):103-126 (2017)
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The articulation of an overarching account of scientific explanation has long been a central preoccupation for the philosophers of science. Although a while ago the literature was dominated by two approaches—a causal account and a unificationist account—today the consensus seems to be that the causal account has won. In this paper, I challenge this consensus and attempt to revive unificationism. More specifically, I aim to accomplish three goals. First, I add new criticisms to the standard anti-unificationist arguments, in order to motivate the need for a revision of the doctrine. Second, and most importantly, I sketch such a revised version. Then I argue that, contrary to widespread belief, the causal account and this revised unificationist account of explanation are compatible. Moreover, I also maintain that the unificationist account has priority, since a most satisfactory theory of explanation can be obtained by incorporating the causal account, as a sub-component of the unificationist account. The driving force behind this reevaluation of the received view in the philosophy of explanation is a reconsideration of the role of scientific understanding.



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Sorin Bangu
University of Bergen

Citations of this work

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