Philosophy Of Science Essay

Length: 7 pages Sources: 8 Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy Type: Essay Paper: #48559114 Related Topics: Thermodynamics, Science Fiction, Metaphysics, Positivism
Excerpt from Essay :

Scientific Explanation

Must every scientific explanation contain a law of nature? For those who support the Deductive-Nomological Account, the answer is yes. Discuss critically the arguments for and against this view, and present your own analysis of which is stronger.

Date of Submittal

Must every scientific explanation contain a law of nature? For those who support the Deductive-Nomological Account, the answer is yes. Discuss critically the arguments for and against this view, and present your own analysis of which is stronger.

Deductive-Nomological Account

Arguments for and against the statement

Must every scientific explanation contain a law of nature? For those who support the Deductive-Nomological Account, the answer is yes. Discuss critically the arguments for and against this view, and present your own analysis of which is stronger.


"Explanation" is sometimes used in what might be called its "pedagogical" or "clarificatory" sense, as opposed to the sense of explanation that we use when we want to talk about accounting for phenomenon (Trout, 2002) Isaac Asimov, the great science and science-fiction writer earned a reputation as "the great explainer" of science. This is because he helped disseminate, popularize, and clarify scientific concepts. It is also despite the fact that he did little scientific research in his life, either theoretical or applied, and was generally not involved in accounting for previously unaccounted-for scientific phenomena. Asimov was mostly involved in purely pedagogical projects. In the pedagogical sense of "explanation" one makes a topic clear in a psychologically useful way (Hempel, 1963) to the individual it is being explained to. It is in that "popularizing" sense that Asimov earned his moniker. In a case where we seek to elucidate science in a psychologically useful way, we speak of explainers and explainees (Bromberger) not explanans or explananda. Asimov was an explainer of science to explainees. He did not necessarily provide sets of explanans and explananda in any rigorous way. To the extent that Asimov might have presented sets of explanans and explananda to popular audiences, he earned his title not in virtue of that, but in virtue of his ability to present and describe those explanans and explananda in a way that was comprehensible to a non-scientific audience.

But what is a law of nature? What is a theory? Are there better and worse methods of structuring taxonomies?; Can testing a hypothesis prove a theory?; And what is an explanation? We constantly encounter questions about the nature of scientific theories. Evolutionary biology, for example, is dismissed by its detractors as "merely a theory." Scientists themselves on the other hand are very impressed at having something as well worked out as a theory of the origins of life on Earth. But neither evolutionary biologists nor their detractors would have an easy time telling even an intelligent audience exactly what they mean when they use the word "theory." Is a theory an educated guess? Is it something we are only somewhat confident of? Is it a way of putting together the data? What sort of things is included in theories? What is the point of a theory? How does a theory differ from a recitation of the known facts?

A scientific explanation must contain a law of nature. Those who support the Deductive-Nomological Account believe in this statement. The current paper is a discussion of the arguments for and against this view.

Deductive-Nomological Account

The Deductive-Nomological approach is most closely identified with Hempel. Salmon calls this model an "inferential" conception which ties explanation to nomic expects ability. Another epistemic conception is the "information theoretic" view which relates to the subsumption of much information under a more compressed rubric, and is most closely identified with Philip Kitcher. Finally, the erotetic or why-question approach is the last epistemic conception of explanation and is most closely identified with Bas van Fraassen.

Deductive Nomological Account makes it necessary for a phenomenon to be under a law of nature. This model of scientific explanation is very attractive for many aspects. For example in physics textbook we find derivations from laws to explain everything from picky observations motions to high-level simplifications. In the deductive-nomological acicount an explanation is constructed as a sound deductive argument that makes necessary employ of no less than one law of nature;

"Explanationdeductively subsumes the explanation under general laws and thus shows, to put it loosely, that according to those laws the explanandum-phenomenon "had to occur" in virtue of the particular circumstancesHempel" (Hempel, 2001, P. 70).

As, current essay is a discussion of the arguments for and against the statement...


Much can be said on the merits and drawbacks of the typical accounts of explanations. As there are different accounts through which scientific explanations are constructed and their virtues are different and conflicting. That is why it is not right that scientific explanation must be based on a law of nature.

An example is theory of gravity presented by Newton which proves to be challenging for models of scientific explanations. This theory of universal gravitational attraction has been exceptionally successful, which showed a great variety of same type of phenomena and predicted the behavior of different kinds of systems from same law. In contrast, the attraction to distance was also considered complex and it was questioned as to whether the theory actually could have acknowledged the substantial causes of the motions predicted by the theory.

Though supporters of deductive-normological account are in favor of the compulsion of one nature of law for a scientific explanation yet many counter-examples are present to the deductive-normological account. Among these examples, above all is the issue of explanatory unevenness. There are cases in which the relation of explanation is not symmetrical. To solve these issues one has to be more careful about law of nature. There is also a need to carefully note any implied ceteris paribus clauses and whether or not they are violated.

Mancosu (2001) claims that since "theories of scientific explanation often attempt to characterize the "scientific" aspect of an explanation independently of the subject area in which it might be offered," "they should thus be able to capture mathematical explanations." Their failure to do so shows a serious limitation of their theories. But this begs the question of the continuity and similarities of mathematics and the natural and social sciences. Mancosu as much as admits this when he claims that if we cannot find a common theory of explanation for both it "will reveal a very interesting difference between the two domains." But clearly mathematics and science exhibit many structural and methodological (if not ontological) differences; e.g., observations, theories, contingency, and laws are just some of the features of science that it does not share with mathematics. Why should the inclusion of "explanation "in this list be particularly interesting? Mancosu does not elaborate. Nonetheless he insists that "it is thus clear that mathematical explanations can be used to test theories of scientific explanation."

Arguments for First of all, scientists have always seen it as one of their principle duties to explain the phenomena. Aristotle's discussion of the four causes is the first known attempt to precisely articulate what a scientific explanation consists of. To fully explain something, Aristotle claimed, we must analyze what it is made of, what shape it is, what process made it, and what it is made for. Modern scientists too seek to offer explanations, not exactly the way Aristotle did, but in many respects not all that differently. To explain something is to somehow account for its existence or presence. Scientists, for example, account for the phenomena of earthquakes, that is, they explain their occurrence, by appealing to plate tectonics, the theory that describes the nature of the Earth's plates that move against each other in particular ways. (Kahl)

More recently the question of scientific explanation was reinvigorated by the Logical Positivists. Logical Positivism thrived mainly during the period between the two world wars, and began to seriously wane around the early 1960s. During the positivist era, there was a growing discomfort with the extant philosophical outlook which had been dominated by the Fichte, Schelling, post-Kantian, and neo-Hegelian traditions. Scientific and philosophical explanations were laden with transcendental metaphysics, theology, teleology, and entelechies. Positivists believed that the primary task of philosophy was to describe the scientific enterprise, and discard all the unnecessary metaphysics that was (and sometimes still is) identified with philosophy in general. Once that was done, philosophers would have contributed all they can to advance human knowledge and a period of real knowledge acquisition, i.e., the accumulation of scientific information, could then begin without intractable metaphysics haunting them. (Ayer, 1936)

My Opinion

I think the views against the statement "must every scientific explanation contain a law of nature" are stronger…

Sources Used in Documents:


C.G. Hempel and Paul Oppenheim. (1948) Studies in the logic of explanation. Philosophy of Science, 15:135-175,.

CG. Hempel.( 1965) Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. Free Press, New York,.

CG. Hempel. (1963). Explanation and prediction by covering laws. In Bernard Baumrin, editor, Philosophy of Science: The Delaware Seminar, pages 107-133, New York,. John Wiley and Sons.

D. Hume.(1980). Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Hackett, Indianopolis,. Contains the Posthumous Essays. Edited by Richard H. Popkin.

Cite this Document:

"Philosophy Of Science" (2012, February 25) Retrieved February 3, 2023, from

"Philosophy Of Science" 25 February 2012. Web.3 February. 2023. <>

"Philosophy Of Science", 25 February 2012, Accessed.3 February. 2023,

Related Documents
Philosophy of Science, Paradigm, Epistemology, and Ontology
Words: 580 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 91087650

Philosophy of Science, Paradigm, Epistemology, and Ontology Note that defining philosophy of science is different from asking you about your personal philosophy of your discipline, such as your philosophy of education, or your philosophy of management. • The distinction between and among these terms • An explanation of why these terms are important for researchers to know Philosophy of science, paradigm, epistemology, and ontology Philosophy as a discipline concerns itself with understanding the pursuit

An Explanation of the Definition of Science
Words: 610 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Science Paper #: 56269917

Science is a “way of knowing,” meaning that it is one way of ascertaining the truth about the world. Although it is not the only way of knowing, it is the most reliable way of knowing the physical universe because it is based on systematic, rigorous methods of testing, experimentation, and calculated observations. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (2017), science yields “unbiased and verifiable information to make important

Philosophy Kuhn's Rationale on the Irrationality of
Words: 2831 Length: 8 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 87324781

Philosophy Kuhn's Rationale on the Irrationality of Scientific Revolutions "Communities in this sense exist, of course, at numerous levels. The most global is the community of all natural scientists." ~Thomas S. Kuhn, from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions To understand Thomas Kuhn's ideas regarding scientific revolutions, one must have a grasp on Kuhn's ideas relating to the history of science in general. Kuhn's perspective on the history of science is that scientific knowledge is

Philosophy Analyzing Rembrandt the Following Paper Is
Words: 1152 Length: 4 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 9393565

Philosophy Analyzing Rembrandt The following paper is a response to questions regarding the painting, "Aristotle with a Bust of Homer." The painting was painted by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1653. It is oil on canvas and access to the painting is gained by the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, physically located in New York City. The paper will first contextualize the painting, trying to situated in history and establish a historical

Philosophy Matrix II Ancient Quest for Truth
Words: 1641 Length: 6 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 87762529

Philosophy Matrix II Ancient Quest for Truth Philosophy Matrix II: Ancient Quest for Truth Use the matrix to analyze Plato and Aristotle's theory of knowledge and apply both to current day practices. In the first column, using the readings about Plato's search for truth and his theories of knowledge, discuss how contemporary people may be living in a cave and which steps, based on Plato's model of the Divided Line, will be necessary for

Philosophy Socrates to Sartre and
Words: 2412 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 58399067

Berkley stated that because the senses were potentially faulty, everyone's sense perceptions and thus everyone's 'truth' was unique and variable. However, most empiricists like Locke believed that some (few) things could be known with certainty, like shape and color, even if other properties of things could not be known. The empiricists come from the Aristotelian rather than the Platonic tradition of philosophy, and had rigorous standards of truth based upon