A Unificationist Theory of Scientific Explanation

University dissertation from Department of Philosophy, Lund University

Abstract: What is the relation between scientific explanation and understanding? The thesis investigates a notion of understanding that is believed to be central to scientific explanation. The role of understanding in explanation is double: it is both an essential component, as well as a criterion, by which we select bona fide explanations from non-explanations. The model of explanation that is outlined in the thesis is a version of the unificationist model of explanation. In the thesis, this model is compared to Hempel's covering law model. The two models share some assumptions, but as it turns out, the unificationist model has more resources and is better suited to meet some of the objections that have been thought to be detrimental to the covering law model. The final part of the thesis is an investigation of theory reduction. The contention is that reduction is best accounted for as a sort of explanation, and it is argued that as such, it is best understood within the framework of the unificationist model of explanation that is outlined in the first part of the thesis.

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