The Why and How of Explanation: An Analytical Exposition

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 302)


Heinrich Hertz and Steven Weinberg — two illustrious physicists separated by a century — exemplify by their respective views of physics one of the crucial transitions in philosophy that this century of science has undergone. We are concerned here with the role assigned to theories, their constituting laws and consequently the criteria by which they are supposed to be compared and evaluated. Should a theory enable us to be solely “in advance of the facts,” as Hertz had stipulated [Hertz (1894) 1956], p.1, or should it aim at what seems to be a rather loftier objective: increasing our understanding of “why… [the world] is the way it is,” as Weinberg demanded [Weinberg (1992) 1994], p.219? The tension is then between on the one hand successful prediction based on appropriate representation of phenomena and on the other hand explanatory power grounded in schemes of explanation.


Logical Structure Scientific Explanation Photoelectric Effect Intrinsic Good Instrumental Good 
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