How could models possibly provide how-possibly explanations?

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 73:1-12 (2019)
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Abstract

One puzzle concerning highly idealized models is whether they explain. Some suggest they provide so-called ‘how-possibly explanations’. However, this raises an important question about the nature of how-possibly explanations, namely what distinguishes them from ‘normal’, or how-actually, explanations? I provide an account of how-possibly explanations that clarifies their nature in the context of solving the puzzle of model-based explanation. I argue that the modal notions of actuality and possibility provide the relevant dividing lines between how-possibly and how-actually explanations. Whereas how-possibly explanations establish claims of possible explanations, how-actually explanations establish claims of actual ones. Models, in turn, simply provide evidence for these claims.

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Philippe Verreault-Julien
Eindhoven University of Technology

Citations of this work

Model Pluralism.Walter Veit - 2019 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 50 (2):91-114.
Do ML models represent their targets?Emily Sullivan - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.

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