Explanation and Inference
Along with prediction and control, explanation is often regarded as a central aim of science. I have three projects concerning explanation. First, explanation plays a prominent role in my account of understanding. Second, I defend explanatory pluralism, holding that even the most general criteria of explanation admit of exceptions. Third, it is widely thought that explanations are a primordial engine of reasoning, autonomously of any other rules of inference. By contrast, I hold that explanations always presuppose more basic inductive inferences that are sanitized of any explanatory concepts. In the future, I hope to unify the second and third of these projects. Roughly, the thought is that previous philosophers have erred in thinking that explanatory vocabulary's chief function is to describe causal and other modally laden dependency relations. Rather, one of explanatory vocabulary's chief functions is to express commitments to certain kinds of inferences, and this expressive role provides explanations with the little unity that they have.
Articles and Book Chapters
- In progress. Paper on topological explanation. (with Daniel Kostic).
- In progress. Paper on renormalization group explanations. (with Jingyi Wu).
- in progress. A critique of inference to the best explanation. (with Jared Millson).
- Forthcoming. Explanatory obligations. Episteme. (with Jared Millson).
- 2019. Counterfactuals and explanatory pluralism. The British Journal for Philosophy of Science. doi:10.1093/bjps/axy048. (with Gabe Doble and Jared Millson).
- 2018b. Inference, explanation, and asymmetry. Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-018-1791-y. (with Jared Millson and Mark Risjord).
- 2018a. Inferentialist expressivism for explanatory vocabulary. In From rules to meanings: new essays on inferentialism, edited by Ladislav Koreň, Ondřej Beran and Vojtěch Kolman. (London: Routledge). (with Jared Millson and Mark Risjord).
- 2017. Inference to the best explanation: fundamentalism's failures. in Best explanations: new essays on inference to the best explanation, edited by K. McCain and T. Poston. (Oxford: Oxford University Press). (with Jared Millson and Mark Risjord).
- 2013. General theories of explanation: buyer beware. Synthese 190(3): 379-396. (with José Díez and Bert Leuridan)
- 2011. Contrastive explanations as social accounts. Social Epistemology. 24 (4): 265-286.
- 2010a. Default privilege and bad lots: underconsideration and explanatory inference. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 24 (1): 91-105.