PP-2003-27: Explaining New Phenomena in Terms of Previous Phenomena

PP-2003-27: Bod, Rens (2003) Explaining New Phenomena in Terms of Previous Phenomena. [Report]

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It has become increasingly clear that natural phenomena cannot be
formally deduced from laws but that almost every phenomenon has its
own particular way of being linked to higher-level generalizations,
usually via approximations, normalizations and corrections. This paper
centers around the following problem: if every phenomenon has its own
way of being explained, how can we -- or how can a theory -- explain
any new phenomenon? I will argue that while particular explanations
only apply to the specific phenomena they describe, parts of such
explanations can be productively reused in explaining new
phenomena. This leads to a new view on theory, which I call
maximalism, according to which we are entitled to use all previously
explained phenomena in understanding new phenomena. On the maximalist
view, a theory is not a system of axioms or a set of models, but a
dynamically updated corpus of explanations. New phenomena are
explained by combining fragments of explanations of previous
phenomena. I will give a specific instantiation of this view, based on
a corpus of phenomena from classical and fluid mechanics, and show
that the maximalist approach is not only used in scientific practice
but that we cannot do without it in explaining real-world
systems. This paper also aims to integrate three, somewhat disparate
views: particularism, exemplarism and maximalism.

Item Type: Report
Report Nr: PP-2003-27
Series Name: Prepublication (PP) Series
Year: 2003
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy of Science, Particularism, Exemplars, Maximalism, Data-Oriented Parsing
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2016 14:36
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2016 14:36
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/111

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