PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Toward an Eikonic Conception of Explanation: Why We Should Leave the Ontic Conception Behind

The ontic conception of explanation, according to which explanations are "full-bodied things in the world," is fundamentally misguided. I argue instead for what I call the eikonic conception of scientific explanation, according to which explanations are representations. Not only are the explanans representations of the relevant processes, but so too are the explananda representations of the phenomena to be explained, contextualized within a particular research program and explanatory project. I conclude that this eikonic conception of explanation as contextualized representation has a number of benefits, including allowing us to make better sense of scientific practice.

Author Information:

Alisa Bokulich    
Philosophy Department/Center for Philosophy & History of Science
Boston University


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