Scientific Explanation


The causal economy account of scientific explanation (for Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science)

This paper proposes an account of causal explanation whose guiding principle is that complete explanations select packages of causal influence which give the largest ‘bang-for-your-buck,’ offering the best trade-off between abstractness and stability. A central virtue of this view is that it promises to make sense of how high-level, detail-sparse explanations might be objectively superior to fully reductive counterparts. 

Explaining causal selection with explanatory causal economy: biology and beyond (2015 Explanation in Biology, eds. Malaterre and Braillard, p. 413-438,  Book Link)

This paper uses the causal economy account (above) to give a causal-explanatory analysis of the distinction between causes and background conditions, applying the analysis to questions about ‘causal democracy’ in explanations of ontogeny.

The Meta-Explanatory Question (draft paper)

This essay asks the ‘meta-explanatory question’: are the explanatory facts—most centrally those concerning which explanations are correct and which are not—objective or mind-independent? After distinguishing realist and anti-realist views, the paper sketches three paths to explanatory anti-realism, two of which do not rely on the pragmatic or contextual features of explanation that motivate others to embrace forms of explanatory subjectivity. 


New Mechanistic Explanation and the Need for Explanatory Constraints (2016 Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Ground, eds. Aizawa and Gillett, p. 41-74,  Book Link)

This paper argues that the new mechanistic approach to scientific explanation has yet to ‘earn its keep’; the paper surveys explanatory problems that the account might be addressing (causation, parthood, levels), concluding in each case that it lacks the resources to do so. 

High-level explanation and the interventionist's ‘variables problem (2016 BJPS, 67: 553-577, Journal Link) 

This paper poses a problem for the interventionist account of causal explanation, arguing that, because of its ecumenism respecting causally related ‘variables,’ it has no resources to locate proper explanatory level in a way at all consistent with actual scientific practice.