Synthese 192 (9):2863-2885 (2015)

Zanja Yudell
California State University, Chico
Wai-hung Wong
California State University, Chico
Although explanation is a central topic in the philosophy of science, there is an important issue concerning explanation that has not been discussed much, namely, why some phenomena need an explanation while some do not. In this paper we first explain why this is an important issue, and then discuss two accounts of the need for explanation that can be gathered from the literature. We argue that both accounts are inadequate. The main purpose of the paper is, however, to offer a normative account of the need for explanation. On this account, a demand for explanation is possible only against the background of a certain understanding of the world. It is the map we are using that provides us with the concepts and beliefs in terms of which we can ask for an explanation. And a phenomenon needs explanation only when it does not fit the map—the phenomenon’s not fitting the map is a good reason for us to look for an explanation of it. This account not only captures our pre-theoretical understanding of the need for explanation, but also is in accordance with our practice of demanding an explanation
Keywords Explanation  Explanatory need  Demand for explanation  Normative  Surprise  Map account
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0690-8
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References found in this work BETA

Two Dogmas of Empiricism.Willard V. O. Quine - 1951 - Philosophical Review 60 (1):20–43.
The Sources of Normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
Science, Truth, and Democracy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Explanatory Obligations.Kareem Khalifa & Jared Millson - 2020 - Episteme 17 (3):384-401.
Conceptual Evaluation: Epistemic.Alejandro Pérez Carballo - 2020 - In Alexis Burgess, Herman Cappelen & David Plunkett (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 304-332.
Calling for Explanation.Dan Baras - forthcoming - Oxford University Press.

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