January 26, 2014 · 2:00 PM
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PhD candidate Tommy Kivatinos will facilitate this meeting.
The reading, Lipton's What Good is an Explanation?, can be found in More -> Files.
The meeting will be most exciting for you if you have done the reading!
In order to explain why John Doe had died, one could mention that he had ingested poison. In order to explain why the parts of a watch are arranged exactly the way that they are arranged, one could mention that this specific arrangement of gears and cogs would allow the hands on the face of the clock to continuously indicate the time of day.
Both of these explanations are about different sorts of things. The first explanation above mentions the cause of an event – the *cause* of John Doe dying (ingesting poison) is the explanatory resource in this case. The second explanation above mentions the *function* of an object – the function of a watch (indicating the time of day) is the explanatory resource in this case.
And other examples of explanations not mentioned here could draw attention to even more kinds of explanatory resources. So it would seem that explanations can work by appeal to different kinds of explanatory resources. Generalizing this idea; our way of making intelligible events, facts and the world itself would seem to be based on recognition of many different kinds of things (such as causes, functions, etc) .
Contrary to this picture, we will explore the idea that these seemingly different features of the world that explanations draw attention to are in fact not different in kind. That is to say, all explanations work by appeal to a single kind of feature of the world which is thus the sole source of the intelligibility of the world. In turn, I will explore the suggestion that explanation is not something which is varied into different fundamental kinds.