Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World

ISBN-10: 0691101701

ISBN-13: 9780691101705

Edition: 1985

Authors: Wesley C. Salmon

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Description:

The philosophical theory of scientific explanation proposed here involves a radically new treatment of causality that accords with the pervasively statistical character of contemporary science. Wesley C. Salmon describes three fundamental conceptions of scientific explanation--the epistemic, modal, and ontic. He argues that the prevailing view (a version of the epistemic conception) is untenable and that the modal conception is scientifically out-dated. Significantly revising aspects of his earlier work, he defends a causal/mechanical theory that is a version of the ontic conception. Professor Salmon's theory furnishes a robust argument for scientific realism akin to the argument that convinced twentieth-century physical scientists of the existence of atoms and molecules. To do justice to such notions as irreducibly statistical laws and statistical explanation, he offers a novel account of physical randomness. The transition from the "reviewed view" of scientific explanation (that explanations are arguments) to the causal/mechanical model requires fundamental rethinking of basic explanatory concepts.
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Book details

List price: $27.95
Copyright year: 1985
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 12/21/1984
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 321
Size: 9.50" wide x 6.25" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 0.990
Language: English

Born in Detroit, Michigan, the philosopher of science Wesley Charles Salmon received his M.A. from the University of Chicago, where he studied theology and metaphysics. He then shifted his interest to the philosophy of science at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he studied under Hans Reichenbach. After receiving his Ph.D. at UCLA in 1950, Salmon became an instructor at Washington State University, followed by appointments at Northwestern, Brown, and Indiana universities. From 1973 to 1981 he served on the faculty of the University of Arizona and then became professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. Noted for his contributions to the philosophy of inductive inference, Salmon focused on causality and scientific explanation. His 1966 essay The Foundations of Scientific Inference offered a concise treatise on the problem of induction, its historical roots, and modern approaches to its solution. Later study and writings continued his efforts to strengthen locial empiricism in scientific thought. Salmon's fullest statement of his theory of inductive inference is found in Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World (1984).

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