Scientific Explanation: From Covering Law to Covering Theory

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:69 - 77 (1994)
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A new model of scientific explanation is proposed: the covering theory model. Its goal is understanding. One chooses the appropriate scientific theory and a model within it. From these follows the functioning of the explanandum, i.e. the way in which the model portrays it on one particular cognitive level. It requires an ontology and knowledge of the causal processes, probabilities, or potentialities (propensities) according to which it functions. This knowledge yields understanding. Explanations across cognitive levels demand pluralistic ontologies. An explanation is believed or only accepted depending on the credibility of the theory and the idealizations in the model.



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