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Cartwright, Nancy, , . The Truth Doesn’t Explain Much
1980, American Philosophical Quarterly 17(2): 159 – 163.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Summary: It has sometimes been argued that the covering law model in philosophy of science is too permissive about what gets to count as an explanation. This paper, by contrast, argues that it lets in too little, since there are far too few covering laws to account for all of our explanations. In fact, we rely on ceteris paribus laws that are literally false. Though these are not a true description of nature, they do a good job of allowing us to explain phenomena, so we should be careful to keep those two functions of science separate.

Comment: This relatively brief article offers a good illustration of how, contrary to some preconceptions, science does not always aim at absolute or universal truths, and instead allows pragmatic considerations to play a large role. Useful as part of an examination of what scientific laws really are and what their role is.

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Kleinsschmidt, Shieva, , . Reasoning without the principle of sufficient reason
2013, In Tyron Goldschmidt (ed.), The Philosophy of Existence: Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? Routledge. 64-79.
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Abstract: According to Principles of Sufficient Reason, every truth (in some relevant group) has an explanation. One of the most popular defenses of Principles of Sufficient Reason has been the presupposition of reason defense, which takes endorsement of the defended PSR to play a crucial role in our theory selection. According to recent presentations of this defense, our method of theory selection often depends on the assumption that, if a given proposition is true, then it has an explanation, and this will only be justified if we think this holds for all propositions in the relevant group. In this paper the author argues that this argument fails even when restricted to contingent propositions, and even if we grant that there is no non-arbitrary way to divide true propositions that have explanations from those that lack them. The author gives an alternate explanation of what justifies our selecting theories on the basis of explanatory features: the crucial role is not played by an endorsement of a PSR, but rather by our belief that, prima facie, we should prefer theories that exemplify explanatory power to greater degrees than their rivals.

Comment: The text covers many topics in a level proper for undergraduates: The principle of sufficient reason, the inductive argument, the problem of the Many, explanatory power, etc. Even if the reader doesn’t identify with the view of the author, this article could serve as a good practice to build confidence with philosophical concepts that are crucial for metaphysics and philosophy of science.

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Potochnik, Angela, , . Levels of Explanation Reconceived
2010, Philosophy of Science 77(1): 59-72.
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Abstract: 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.

Comment: An interesting anti-anti-reductionist article. Would be useful in a discussion of explanatory power or levels of explanation in a philosophy of science course.

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