# Semantics and Pragmatics for Why-Questions

Chapter

## Abstract

The importance of the study of why-questions should be obvious. An answer to a question of the form ‘Why *X*?’ is closely related to an explanation of the fact that *X*. Hence a satisfactory theory of why-questions can be expected to be the core of any satisfactory theory of explanation. Such a theory is a tall order, to judge from the frustrations of philosophers of science who have tried to develop one.^{1} A case of point is the wealth of counterexamples and other criticisms that have been raised against Carl G. Hempel’s^{2} covering-law model of explanation, in spite of its being in many ways a natural and tempting one.

## Keywords

Scientific Discovery Epistemic Logic Ultimate Conclusion Logical Positivist Principal Question
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## Notes

- 1.A recent volume in the philosophy of science is entitled
*Inference, Explanation, and Other Frustrations*, John Earman, ed. (Berkeley: California UP, 1992).Google Scholar - 2.
*Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science*(New York: Free Press, 1965), pt. IV.Google Scholar - 3.Hintikka,
*The Principles of Mathematics Revisited*(New York: Cambridge, forthcoming), chs. 3–4.Google Scholar - 4.See, for example, Hintikka, “The Concept of Induction in the Light of the Interrogative Approach to Inquiry,” in Earman, pp. 23–43.Google Scholar
- 5.An example of a logical treatment of why-questions exemplifying these characteristics is Antti Koura, “An Approach to Why-questions,”
*Synthese*, LXXIV (1988): 191–206.Google Scholar - 6.
*De Sophistici Elenchi*173a32—On*Sophistical Refutations*, E.S. Forster, trans. (Cambridge: Harvard, 1955).Google Scholar - 7.See, for example, Hintikka, “The Fallacy of Fallacies,”
*Argumentation, I (1987)*: 221–38;Google Scholar - 7a.Richard Robinson, “Begging the Question,
*1971,” Analysis*, XXXI, 4 (1971): 113–17.Google Scholar - 8.“What We Don’t Know When We Don’t Know Why?” in his
*On What We Know We Don’t Know: Explanation, Theory, Linguistics, and How Questions Shape Them*(Chicago: University Press, 1992).Google Scholar - 9.Cf. footnote 4.Google Scholar
- 10.See here Hintikka, “Theory-ladenness of Observations as a Test Case of Kuhn’s Approach to Scientific Inquiry,” in David Hull et alia, eds.,
*Philosophy of Science Association 1992*(East Lansing, MI: PSA, 1992), pp. 277–86.Google Scholar - 12.“Three Uses of the Herbrand-Gentzen Theorem in Relating Model Theory and Proof Theory,” Journal of Symbolic Logic, XXII (1957): 269–85.Google Scholar
- 13.Cf. our “Toward a Theory of the Process of Explanation.”Google Scholar
- 14.“An Effective Interpolation Theorem for First-order Logic” (forthcoming).Google Scholar
- 15.This result presupposes merely that the proof in question is in a normal form (cut-free form) that satisfies the subformula property.Google Scholar
- 1.In an unpublished work circulated in 1974; see also Bas C. van Fraassen,
*The Scientific Image*(New York: Oxford, 1980).Google Scholar

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