Explanations, Natural Laws and Latin Masses

This isn’t going to make the cut for an academic paper, but I like it and couldn’t resist sharing:

In many explanations, especially in chemistry, natural laws play a role akin to the role played by the resurrection of Jesus in many American Easter rituals. The resurrection (be it truth or convenient fiction) inspires the whole to-do and is essential to the celebration, but its presence is only vaguely felt among the chocolate bunnies and brightly-colored plastic eggs. And while the appearance of matzah in sandwich shops can be explained by a quick cross-reference between the Gospels and the book of Exodus, it takes a bit of creative storytelling to make the connection between the crucifixion and baskets full of artificial plastic grass.

Most accounts of explanation—even the mechanistic ones that purport not to emphasize the role of natural laws as explanantia—have overlooked this distinction between what is essential to an explanation and what does the work of explaining, leading to theories of explanation that look like Latin masses: the laws are center-stage, but the what is being said is far enough removed from the day-to-day activities of science that it sounds like a different language altogether.

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About burstenj

Assistant Professor of Philosophy
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One Response to Explanations, Natural Laws and Latin Masses

  1. Pingback: Explanations, Natural Laws and Latin Masses | Todd DeanTodd Dean

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