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

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Explanation, Context, and Aims: Limitations of the Erotetic Account Against the Backdrop of Synthetic Chemistry

This paper explores the contextual nature of scientific explanation by considering van Fraassen’s erotetic account and looking at explanatory practices in synthetic chemistry. I argue against two assumptions of the erotetic account: (1) that science has a singular aim that grounds all explanatory requests, and (2) that individual explanations are the proper focus of analysis. Drawing on explanatory practices in synthetic chemistry, I argue that explanatory norms for synthetic chemists are importantly tuned to synthetic aims and additionally, that the erotetic framework cannot capture ways in which coordination of sets of answers across both phenomena and practitioners grounds explanatory status.

Author Information:

Andrea Woody    
Philosophy Department
University of Washington


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