Levels of explanation reconceived

Philosophy of Science 77 (1):59-72 (2010)


A common argument against explanatory reductionism is that higher‐level explanations are sometimes or always preferable because they are more general than reductive explanations. Here I challenge two basic assumptions that are needed for that argument to succeed. It cannot be assumed that higher‐level explanations are more general than their lower‐level alternatives or that higher‐level explanations are general in the right way to be explanatory. I suggest a novel form of pluralism regarding levels of explanation, according to which explanations at different levels are preferable in different circumstances because they offer different types of generality, which are appropriate in different circumstances of explanation.


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Citations of this work

Explanatory Abstractions.Lina Jansson & Juha Saatsi - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):817–844.
High-Level Explanation and the Interventionist’s ‘Variables Problem’.L. R. Franklin-Hall - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (2):553-577.
Social Ontology.Brian Epstein - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Limitations of Hierarchical Organization.Angela Potochnik & Brian McGill - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (1):120-140.
Explanatory Depth.Brad Weslake - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (2):273-294.

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