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In Defense of Explanatory Ecumenism

  • Frank Jackson (a1) and Philip Pettit (a1)

Many of the things that we try to explain, in both our common sense and our scientific engagement with the world, are capable of being explained more or less finely: that is, with greater or lesser attention to the detail of the producing mechanism. A natural assumption, pervasive if not always explicit, is that other things being equal, the more finegrained an explanation, the better. Thus, Jon Elster, who also thinks there are instrumental reasons for wanting a more fine-grained explanation, assumes that in any case the mere fact of getting nearer the detail of production makes such an explanation intrinsically superior: “a more detailed explanation is also an end in itself” (Elster 1985, p. 5). Michael Taylor (1988, p. 96) agrees: “A good explanation should be, amongst other things, as fine-grained as possible.”

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Gregory Currie . 1984. “Individualism and Global Supervenience.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35:345–58.

Jon Elster . 1976. “A Note on Hysteresis in the Social Sciences.” Synthese 33:371–91.

Frank Jackson . 1990. “Program Explanation: A General Perspective.” Analysis 50:107–17.

Richard Miller . 1978. “Methodological Individualism and Social Explanation.” Philosophy of Science 45:387414.

David Papineau . 1978. For Science in the Social Sciences. London: Macmillan.

Phillip Pettit . 1990. “Virtus Normativa: Rational Choice Perspectives.” Ethics 100:725–55.

Alan Ryan . 1970. The Philosophy of the Social Sciences. London: Macmillan.

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Economics & Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0266-2671
  • EISSN: 1474-0028
  • URL: /core/journals/economics-and-philosophy
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