Explanation

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An explanation is a set of statements usually constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts. This description may establish rules or laws, and may clarify the existing rules or laws in relation to any objects, or phenomena examined. [1]

Explanation, in philosophy, set of statements that makes intelligible the existence or occurrence of an object, event, or state of affairs. Among the most common forms of explanation are causal explanation; deductive-nomological explanation, which involves subsuming the explanandum under a generalization from which it may be derived in a deductive argument (e.g., “All gases expand when heated; this gas was heated; therefore, this gas expanded”); and statistical explanation, which involves subsuming the explanandum under a generalization that gives it inductive support (e.g., “Most people who use tobacco contract cancer; this person used tobacco; therefore, this person contracted cancer”). Explanations of human behaviour typically appeal to the subject’s beliefs and desires, as well as other facts about him, and proceed on the assumption that the behaviour in question is rational (at least to a minimum degree). Thus an explanation of why the subject removed his coat might cite the fact that the subject felt hot, that the subject desired to feel cooler, and that the subject believed that he would feel cooler if he took off his coat.[2]


Scientific ExplanationEdit

A presupposition of most recent discussion has been that science sometimes provides explanations (rather than “mere description”) and that the task of a “theory” or “model” of scientific explanation is to characterize the structure of such explanations. It is thus assumed that there is a single kind or form of explanation that is “scientific”. In fact, the notion of “scientific explanation” suggests a contrast between those “explanations” that are characteristic of “science” and those explanations that are not, and, second, a contrast between “explanation” and something else. However, the tendency in much of the recent philosophical literature has been to assume that there is a substantial continuity between the sorts of explanations found in science and at least some forms of explanation found in more ordinary non-scientific contexts, with the latter embodying in a more or less inchoate way features that are present in a more detailed, precise, rigorous etc. form in the former. It is further assumed that it is the task of a theory of explanation to capture what is common to both scientific and at least some more ordinary forms of explanation.[3]

A notable theory of scientific explanation in Hempel's Deductive-nomological model. This model has been widely criticied but it is still the starting point for discussion of most theories of explanation.

Explanations vs. ArgumentsEdit

The difference between explanations and arguments reflects a difference in the kind of question that arises. In the case of arguments, we start from a doubted fact, which we try to support by arguments. In the case of explanations, we start with an accepted fact, the question being why is this fact or what caused it. The answer here is the explanation.[4]

For instance, if Fred and Joe address the issue of whether or not Fred's cat has fleas, Joe may state: "Fred, your cat has fleas. Observe the cat is scratching right now." Joe has made an argument that the cat has fleas. However, if Fred and Joe agree on the fact that the cat has fleas, they may further question why this is so and put forth an explanation: "The reason the cat has fleas is that the weather has been damp." The difference is that the attempt is not to settle whether or not some claim is true, but to show why it is true. In this sense, arguments aim to contribute knowledge, whereas explanations aim to contribute understanding.[citation needed]

While arguments attempt to show that something is, will be, or should be the case, explanations try to show why or how something is or will be. If Fred and Joe address the issue of whether or not Fred's cat has fleas, Joe may state: "Fred, your cat has fleas. Observe the cat is scratching right now." Joe has made an argument that the cat has fleas. However, if Fred and Joe agree on the fact that the cat has fleas, they may further question why this is so and put forth an explanation: "The reason the cat has fleas is that the weather has been damp." The difference is that the attempt is not to settle whether or not some claim is true, but to show why it is true.[citation needed]

Arguments and explanations largely resemble each other in rhetorical use. This is the cause of much difficulty in thinking critically about claims. There are several reasons for this difficulty.

  • People often are not themselves clear on whether they are arguing for or explaining something.
  • The same types of words and phrases are used in presenting explanations and arguments.
  • The terms 'explain' or 'explanation,' et cetera are frequently used in arguments.
  • Explanations are often used within arguments and presented so as to serve as arguments.

Explanation vs. JustificationEdit

The term explanation is sometimes used in the context of justification, e.g., explanation as to why a belief is a true. Justification may be understood as the explanation as to why a belief is a true one, or an account of how one knows what one knows. It is important to be aware when an explanation is not a justification. A criminal profiler may offer an explanation of a suspect's behavior (e.g.; the person lost their job, the person got evicted, etc.). Such statements may help us understand why the person committed the crime, however they don't justify it.[citation needed]

TypesEdit

There are many and varied events, objects, and facts which require explanation. So too, there are many different types of explanation. Aristotle recognized at least four types of explanation. Other types of explanation are Deductive-nomological, Functional, Historical, Psychological, Reductive, Teleological, Methodological explanations.[1]

Meta-explanationEdit

The notion of meta-explanation is important in behavioral scenarios that involve conflicting agents. In these scenarios, implicit or explicit conflict can be caused by contradictory agents' interests, as communicated in their explanations for why they behaved in a particular way, by a lack of knowledge of the situation, or by a mixture of explanations of multiple factors. In many cases to assess the plausibility of explanations, one must analyze two following components and their interrelations: (1) explanation at the actual object level (explanation itself) and (2) explanation at the higher level (meta-explanation). Comparative analysis of the roles of both is conducted to assess the plausibility of how agents explain the scenarios of their interactions.[5] Object-level explanation assesses the plausibility of individual claims by using a traditional approach to handle argumentative structure of a dialog. Meta-explanation links the structure of a current scenario with that of previously learned scenarios of multi-agent interaction. The scenario structure includes agents' communicative actions and argumentation defeat relations between the subjects of these actions. The data for both object-level and meta-explanation can be visually specified, and a plausibility of how agent behavior in a scenario can be visually explained. Meta-explanation in the form of machine learning of scenario structure can be augmented by conventional explanation by finding arguments in the form of defeasibility analysis of individual claims, to increase the accuracy of plausibility assessment.[6]

A ratio between object-level and meta-explanation can be defined as the relative accuracy of plausibility assessment based on the former and latter sources. The groups of scenarios can then be clustered based on this ratio; hence, such a ratio is an important parameter of human behavior associated with explaining something to other humans.[1]

Theories of ExplanationEdit

Deductive-nomological model

Statistical relevance model

Causal Mechanical model

Unificationist model[3]

Pragmatic theory of explanation[3]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Moore, Brooke Noel and Parker, Richard. (2012) Critical Thinking. 10th ed. Published by McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-803828-6.
  • Traill, R. R. (2015). Reductionist Models of Mind and Matter: But how valid is reductionism anyhow? (PDF). Ondwelle Melbourne.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Drake, Jess (2018). Introduction to Logic. EP TECH PRESS. pp. 160–161. ISBN 978-1-83947-421-7.
  2. ^ Explanation at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. ^ a b c Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Scientific Explanation". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  4. ^ Mayes, Gregory (2010). "Argument-Explanation Complementarity and the Structure of Informal Reasoning" (PDF). Informal Logic. 30. doi:10.22329/il.v30i1.419.
  5. ^ Galitsky, Boris, de la Rosa, Josep-Lluis and Kovalerchuk, Boris Assessing plausibility of explanation and meta-explanation in inter-human conflict Engineering Application of AI V 24 Issue 8, pp 1472-1486, (2011).
  6. ^ Galitsky, B., Kuznetsov SO Learning communicative actions of conflicting human agents J. Exp. Theor. Artif. Intell. 20(4): 277-317 (2008).

External linksEdit

  Media related to Explanation at Wikimedia Commons