Explanation and Understanding by G.H. Von Wright

By G.H. Von Wright

"Explanation and figuring out, probably von Wright's best-known e-book, confirmed the effect of Wittgenstein, yet marked a fresh holiday with the positivism of his formative years. He prompt that human motion couldn't be defined causally through medical or 'natural' legislation, yet needed to be understood 'intentionally'―a notion hooked up with wishes and ideology built in a social and cultural context."―Daily Telegraph"This is a great ebook full of a lot unique fabric; it additionally includes illuminating reinterpretations of a few time-honored theories and arguments. the diversity of subject matters handled comprises causation, motion, verification of gnomic statements, functional inference and its use within the rationalization of motion, and the constitution of rationalization in history."―Philosophical evaluation

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One could call it probabilistic causal analysis. 45 7. H em pel’s (deductive-nomological) explanation model does not mention the notions of cause and effect. 46 It is debatable whether all causal explana­ tions really conform to H em pel’s schema. It m ay also be asked whether the schema really carries the weight of an explanation unless the covering laws are causal. T h e answer to both questions depends upon the view one takes of the nature of causation. I shall try to show that there are important uses of “ cause” in connection with explanation which do not fit the covering law model.

It explains in the first place w h y things which happened were to be expected (or not to be expected). O nly in a secondary sense does it explain why things happened, viz. “ be­ cause” they were highly probable. It seems to me better, however, not to say that the inductive-probabilistic model explains w hat hap­ pens, but to say only that it justifies certain expectations and pre­ dictions. This is not to deny the existence of (genuine) explanation pat­ terns in which probability plays a characteristic role.

57 Unless we are, as philosophers, wedded to the view that any subsumption of an individual case under a general proposition is an explanation, I think we instinctively doubt whether the answer is positive. W e should like to know why ravens are black, what it is about them that “ is responsible for” the color which, so we are told, is characteristic of them all. W h at is required, if our search for an explanation is to be satisfied, is that the basis of the explanation be somehow more strongly related to the object of explanation than simply by the law stating the universal concomitance of the two characteristics ravenhood and blackness.

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