Physical Explanation: with Reference to the Theories of Scientific Explanation of Hempel and Salmon

  • J. C. Forge
Part of the Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 1)


A significant feature of Hempel’s writings on scientific explanation, and one which is shared by many who adopt his views as a point of departure, is the lack of examples from modern science. The example which receives most attention in Hempel’s long essay on explanation ([1965b], pp. 335–338) concerns the expansion of soap bubbles around tumblers on a draining board. Although the explanation given for this phenomenon is a scientific explanation, it is certainly not an instance which scientists would take to be representative of explanations in science. The use of examples in which familiar states of affairs are explained by elementary scientific laws is quite acceptable if this serves to illustrate the structure of scientific explanation. However, theories of scientific explanation are supposed to cover explanations in science; if instances of explanation in science do not conform to a theory, then that theory is unacceptable even if it can deal with scientific explanations of familiar events.


Quantum Theory Scientific Explanation Causal Process Physical Explanation Schrodinger Equation 
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© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1982

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  • J. C. Forge

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