The philosophical theory of scientific explanation proposed here involves a radically new treatment of causality that accords with the pervasively statistical character of contemporary science. Wesley C. Salmon describes three fundamental conceptions of scientific explanation--the epistemic, modal, and ontic. He argues that the prevailing view is untenable and that the modal conception is scientifically out-dated. Significantly revising aspects of his earlier work, he defends a causal/mechanical theory that is a version of the ontic conception. Professor Salmon's theory furnishes a robust (...) argument for scientific realism akin to the argument that convinced twentieth-century physical scientists of the existence of atoms and molecules. To do justice to such notions as irreducibly statistical laws and statistical explanation, he offers a novel account of physical randomness. The transition from the "reviewed view" of scientific explanation to the causal/mechanical model requires fundamental rethinking of basic explanatory concepts. (shrink)
Wesley Salmon is renowned for his seminal contributions to the philosophy of science. He has powerfully and permanently shaped discussion of such issues as lawlike and probabilistic explanation and the interrelation of explanatory notions to causal notions. This unique volume brings together twenty-six of his essays on subjects related to causality and explanation, written over the period 1971-1995. Six of the essays have never been published before and many others have only appeared in obscure venues. The volume includes a section (...) of accessible introductory pieces, as well as more advanced and technical pieces, and will make essential work in the philosophy of science readily available to both scholars and students. (shrink)
As Aristotle stated, scientific explanation is based on deductive argument--yet, Wesley C. Salmon points out, not all deductive arguments are qualified explanations. The validity of the explanation must itself be examined. _Four Decades of Scientific Explanation_ provides a comprehensive account of the developments in scientific explanation that transpired in the last four decades of the twentieth century. It continues to stand as the most comprehensive treatment of the writings on the subject during these years. Building on the historic 1948 essay (...) by Carl G. Hempel and Paul Oppenheim, "Studies in the Logic of Explanation,” which introduced the deductive-nomological model on which most work on scientific explanation was based for the following four decades, Salmon goes beyond this model's inherent basis of describing empirical knowledge to tells us “not only _what,_ but also _why_.” Salmon examines the predominant models in chronological order and describes their development, refinement, and criticism or rejection. _Four Decades of Scientific Explanation_ underscores the need for a consensus of approach and ongoing evaluations of methodology in scientific explanation, with the goal of providing a better understanding of natural phenomena. (shrink)
This paper presents a drastically revised version of the theory of causality, based on analyses of causal processes and causal interactions, advocated in Salmon (1984). Relying heavily on modified versions of proposals by P. Dowe, this article answers penetrating objections by Dowe and P. Kitcher to the earlier theory. It shows how the new theory circumvents a host of difficulties that have been raised in the literature. The result is, I hope, a more satisfactory analysis of physical causality.
This paper discusses several distinct process theories of causality offered in recent years by Phil Dowe and me. It addresses problems concerning the explication of causal process, causal interaction, and causal transmission, whether given in terms of transmission of marks, transmission of invariant or conserved quantities, or mere possession of conserved quantities. Renouncing the mark-transmission and invariant quantity criteria, I accept a conserved quantity theory similar to Dowe's--differing basically with respect to causal transmission. This paper also responds to several fundamental (...) constructive criticisms contained in Christopher Hitchcock's discussion of both the mark-transmission and the conserved quantity theories. (shrink)
By contrasting three general conceptions of scientific explanation, this paper seeks to clarify the explanandum and to exhibit the fundamental philosophical issues involved in the project of explicating scientific explanation. The three conceptions--epistemic, modal, and ontic--have both historical and contemporary importance. In the context of Laplacian determinism, they do not seem importantly distinct, but in the context of irreducibly statistical explanations, the three are seen to diverge sharply. The paper argues for a causal/mechanical version of the ontic conception, and concludes (...) by exhibiting some striking consequences of this approach. (shrink)
Reichenbach sought to resolve Hume's problem of the justification of induction by means of a pragmatic vindication that relies heavily on the convergence properties of his rule of induction. His attempt to rule out all other asymptotic methods by an appeal to descriptive simplicity was unavailing. We found that important progress in that direction could be made by invoking normalizing conditions (consistency) and methodological simplicity (as a basis for invariance), but that they did not do the whole job. I am (...) proposing that, in the end, Reichenbach's own distinction between discovery and justification holds the key to the solution. (shrink)
This paper deals with the problem of vindicating a particular type of inductive rule, a rule to govern inferences from observed frequencies to limits of relative frequencies. Reichenbach's rule of induction is defended. By application of two conditions, normalizing conditions and a criterion of linguistic invariance, it is argued that alternative rules lead to contradiction. It is then argued that the rule of induction does not lead to contradiction when suitable restrictions are placed upon the predicates admitted. Goodman's grue-bleen paradox (...) is considered, and an attempt to resolve it is offered. Finally, Reichenbach's pragmatic argument, hinging on convergence properties, is applied. (shrink)
The propagation of causal influences through space-time seems to play a fundamental role in scientific explanation. Taking as a point of departure a basic distinction between causal interactions (which are localized in space-time) and causal processes (which may extend through vast regions of space-time), this paper attempts an analysis of the concept of causal propagation on the basis of the ability of causal processes to transmit "marks." The analysis rests upon the "at-at" theory of motion which has figured prominently in (...) the resolution of Zeno's arrow paradox. It is argued that this explication does justice to the concept of the ability of causal processes to transmit causal influence without invoking anti-Humean "powers" or "necessary connections.". (shrink)
A theory of causality based upon physical processes is developed. Causal processes are distinguished from pseudo-processes by means of a criterion of mark transmission. Causal interactions are characterized as those intersections of processes in which the intersecting processes are mutually modified in ways which persist beyond the point of intersection. Causal forks of three kinds (conjunctive, interactive, and perfect) are introduced to explicate the principle of the common cause. Causal forks account for the production of order and modifications of order; (...) causal processes account for the propagation of causal influence. (shrink)
This paper claims that adoption of Bayes's theorem as the schema for the appraisal of scientific theories can greatly reduce the distance between Kuhnians and logical empiricists. It is argued that plausibility considerations, which Kuhn considered outside of the logic of science, can be construed as prior probabilities, which play an indispensable role in the logic of science. Problems concerning likelihoods, especially the likelihood on the "catchall," are also considered. Severe difficulties concerning the significance of this probability arise in the (...) evaluation of individual theories, but they can be avoided by restricting our judgments to comparative assessments of competing theories. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss the key role played by Carl G. Hempel's work on theoretical realism and scientific explanation in effecting a crucial philosophical transition between the beginning and the end of the twentieth century. At the beginning of the century, the dominant view was that science is incapable of furnishing explanations of natural phenomena; at the end, explanation is widely viewed as an important, if not the primary, goal of science. In addition to its intellectual benefits, this transition (...) has important practical consequences with respect to dealing with the global problems humans everywhere will face in the twenty-first century. (shrink)
After describing a new method of synchronizing spatially separated clocks by means of clock transport, this paper discusses the philosophical import of the existence of such methods, including those of Ellis and Bowman and of Bridgman, with special reference to the Ellis-Bowman claim that "the thesis of the coventionality of distant simultaneity... is thus either trivialized or refuted." I argue that the physical facts do not support this philosophical conclusion, and that a substantial part of their argument against Reichenbach, in (...) particular, is misdirected. Finally, I suggest that Ellis and Bowman employ seriously unclear notions of triviality and "good physical reasons" that tend to obscure rather than clarify the basic philosophical issues. An objective criterion of nontriviality of conventions is advanced. (shrink)
This article deals with the design argument for the existence of God as it is discussed in hume's "dialogues concerning natural religion". Using bayes's theorem in the probability calculus--Which hume almost certainly could not have known as such--It shows how the various arguments advanced by philo and cleanthes fit neatly into a comprehensive logical structure. The conclusion is drawn that, Not only does the empirical evidence fail to support the theistic hypothesis, But also renders the atheistic hypothesis quite highly probable. (...) A postscript speculates upon the historical question of hume's own attitude toward the design argument. (shrink)
A consideration of some basic problems that arise in the attempt to provide an adequate characterization of statistical explanation is taken to show that an understanding of the nature of scientific explanation requires us to deal with the philosophical problems connected with the nature of prior probabilities.
The principle of uniformity of nature has sometimes been invoked for the purpose of justifying induction. This principle cannot be established "a priori", And in the absence of a justification of induction, It cannot be established "a posteriori". There is no justification for assuming it as a postulate of science. Use of such a principle is, However, Neither sufficient nor necessary for a justification of induction. In any plausible form, It is too weak for that purpose, And hence, It is (...) insufficient. Since a justification which does not rely upon this principle can be given, It is not necessary. (shrink)