The ontic-epistemic debates of explanation revisited: The three-dimensional approach

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Jinyeong Gim


After Wesley Salmon’s causal-mechanical stance on explanation in the 1980s, the ontic-epistemic debate of scientific explanations appeared to be resolved in the philosophy of science. However, since the twenty-first century, this debate has been rekindled among philosophers who focus on mechanistic explanations. Nevertheless, its issues have evolved, necessitating scrutiny of the new trends in this debate and a comparison with the original controversy between Carl Hempel and Salmon. The primary objective of this paper is to elucidate three categorical dimensions in the ontic-epistemic debates, spanning from the original to the recent controversies. Subsequently, it will explore why the conception of explanation is linked to representations, what conditions are necessary for linguistic expressions to be explanatory, and what roles norms play in explanation. Consequently, contrary to the common stereotype, it will be argued that mechanistic explanations are more likely to be epistemic rather than ontic.

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Gim, J. (2024). The ontic-epistemic debates of explanation revisited: The three-dimensional approach. Philosophical Problems in Science (Zagadnienia Filozoficzne W Nauce), (74), 99–169.


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