Far from being inferior to physics, the special sciences are crucial to understanding what is distinctive about scientific explanation: that description is just as important as ontology and that having the right attitude toward empirical evidence is as necessary as having the right method. Explaining Explanation is a collection of Lee McIntyre’s most significant philosophical essays from over the last twenty years. The principle areas of concern are the philosophy of social science and the philosophy of chemistry, but essays also cover more general problems such as underdetermination, explanatory exclusion, the accommodation-prediction debate, and laws in biological science. Despite the disparate themes of each essaycomplexity, laws, explanation, prediction, reduction, supervenience, emergence, and redescriptionthey all converge through the lens of the special sciences, focusing on what it means to “explain” in the sciences.
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About the Author
Lee McIntyre is a research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and a lecturer in philosophy at Simmons College. He is the author of Laws and Explanation in the Social Sciences (Westview Press, 1996) and Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior (MIT Press, 2006).
Table of Contents
Introduction: What's So Special About the Special Sciences? xi
Philosophy of Social Science
1 Complexity and Social Scientific Laws 1
2 Reduction, Supervenience, and the Autonomy of Social Scientific Laws 17
3 Prediction in the Social Sciences 35
4 Davidson and Social Scientific Laws 51
5 Intentionality, Pluralism, and Redescription 69
6 Redescription and Descriptivism in the Social Sciences 81
7 The Dark Ages of Social Science 94
Philosophy of Chemistry
8 The Case for the Philosophy of Chemistry (with Eric Scerri) 101
9 The Emergence of the Philosophy of Chemistry 120
10 The Philosophy of Chemistry: Ten Years Later 125
11 Emergence and Reduction in Chemistry: Ontological or Epistemological Concepts? 128
General Problems in Scientific Explanation
12 Complexity: A Philosopher's Reflections 139
13 Accommodation, Prediction, and Confirmation 151
14 Supervenience and Explanatory Exclusion 166
15 Taking Underdetermination Seriously 177
Problems in Other Sciences
16 Gould on Laws in Biological Science 191
17 Teaching the Fallacy of Conversion 202
18 What Can Medicine Teach the Social Sciences? 208
About the Author 225
What People are Saying About This
Lee McIntyre’s new collection of papers shows that he is not afraid to swim against the academic tide regardless of whether he is discussing the nature of predictions, supervenience, whether there are laws in the social sciences, or making original contributions to the emerging field of philosophy of chemistry. This book will be of interest to all philosophers of science and philosophers in general.
Brilliantly arguing against the nearly universal acceptance of the superiority of explanations in physics, McIntyre makes the strongest case yet for the importance of the special sciences.