•  338
    Explanatory Abstractions
    with Lina Jansson
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3). 2019.
    A number of philosophers have recently suggested that some abstract, plausibly non-causal and/or mathematical, explanations explain in a way that is radically dif- ferent from the way causal explanation explain. Namely, while causal explanations explain by providing information about causal dependence, allegedly some abstract explanations explain in a way tied to the independence of the explanandum from the microdetails, or causal laws, for example. We oppose this recent trend to regard abstract…Read more
  •  357
    We demonstrate how real progress can be made in the debate surrounding the enhanced indispensability argument. Drawing on a counterfactual theory of explanation, well-motivated independently of the debate, we provide a novel analysis of ‘explanatory generality’ and how mathematics is involved in its procurement. On our analysis, mathematics’ sole explanatory contribution to the procurement of explanatory generality is to make counterfactual information about physical dependencies easier to grasp…Read more
  • Scientific Realism and the Quantum (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
  •  40
    Scientific Realism and the Quantum (edited book)
    with S. French
    Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
  •  3
    Explanations are very important to us in many contexts: in science, mathematics, philosophy, and also in everyday and juridical contexts. But what is an explanation? In the philosophical study of explanation, there is long-standing, influential tradition that links explanation intimately to causation: we often explain by providing accurate information about the causes of the phenomenon to be explained. Such causal accounts have been the received view of the nature of explanation, particularly in…Read more
  •  9
    On Explanations from Geometry of Motion
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 2016.
    This paper examines explanations that turn on non-local geometrical facts about the space of possible configurations a system can occupy. I argue that it makes sense to contrast such explanations from “geometry of motion” with causal explanations. I also explore how my analysis of these explanations cuts across the distinction between kinematics and dynamics.
  •  91
    The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2006.
    What is spacetime? General relativity and quantum field theory answer this question in very different ways. This collection of essays by physicists and philosophers looks at the problem of uniting these two most fundamental theories of our world, focusing on the nature of space and time within this new quantum framework, and the kind of metaphysical picture suggested by recent developments in physics and mathematics. This is a book that will inspire further philosophical reflection on recent adv…Read more
  •  15
    Historical inductions, Old and New
    Synthese 196 (10): 3979-3993. 2019.
    I review prominent historical arguments against scientific realism to indicate how they display a systematic overshooting in the conclusions drawn from the historical evidence. The root of the overshooting can be located in some critical, undue presuppositions regarding realism. I will highlight these presuppositions in connection with both Laudan’s ‘Old induction’ and Stanford’s New induction, and then delineate a minimal realist view that does without the problematic presuppositions.
  •  25
    What is theoretical progress of science?
    Synthese 196 (2): 611-631. 2019.
    The epistemic conception of scientific progress equates progress with accumulation of scientific knowledge. I argue that the epistemic conception fails to fully capture scientific progress: theoretical progress, in particular, can transcend scientific knowledge in important ways. Sometimes theoretical progress can be a matter of new theories ‘latching better onto unobservable reality’ in a way that need not be a matter of new knowledge. Recognising this further dimension of theoretical progress …Read more
  •  21
    On Explanations from 'Geometry of Motion'
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (1). 2018.
    This paper examines explanations that turn on non-local geometrical facts about the space of possible configurations a system can occupy. I argue that it makes sense to contrast such explanations from ‘geometry of motion’ with causal explanations. I also explore how my analysis of these explanations cuts across the distinction between kinematics and dynamics
  •  99
    This chapter defends a (minimal) realist conception of progress in scientific understanding in the face of the ubiquitous plurality of perspectives in science. The argument turns on the counterfactual-dependence framework of explanation and understanding, which is illustrated and evidenced with reference to different explanations of the rainbow.
  •  234
    I examine the epistemological debate on scientific realism in the context of quantum physics, focusing on the empirical underdetermin- ation of different formulations and interpretations of QM. I will argue that much of the interpretational, metaphysical work on QM tran- scends the kinds of realist commitments that are well-motivated in the light of the history of science. I sketch a way of demarcating empirically well-confirmed aspects of QM from speculative quantum metaphysics in a way that co…Read more
  •  1
    Symmetries and Explanatory Dependencies in Physics
    In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations, Oxford University Press. pp. 185-205. 2018.
    Many important explanations in physics are based on ideas and assumptions about symmetries, but little has been said about the nature of such explanations. This chapter aims to fill this lacuna, arguing that various symmetry explanations can be naturally captured in the spirit of the counterfactual-dependence account of Woodward, liberalized from its causal trappings. From the perspective of this account symmetries explain by providing modal information about an explanatory dependence, by showin…Read more
  •  304
    This chapter examines issues surrounding inference to the best explanation, its justification, and its role in different arguments for scientific realism, as well as more general issues concerning explanations’ ontological commitments. Defending the reliability of inference to the best explanation has been a central plank in various realist arguments, and realists have drawn various ontological conclusions from the premise that a given scientific explanation best explains some phenomenon. This c…Read more
  •  55
    Contribution to a review symposium on Marc Lange's Because without cause: Non-causal explanation in science and mathematics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017
  •  45
    Grasping at Realist Straws (review)
    Metascience 18 (3): 355-390. 2009.
  •  248
    This paper analyses the anti-reductionist argument from renormalisation group explanations of universality, and shows how it can be rebutted if one assumes that the explanation in question is captured by the counterfactual dependence account of explanation.
  •  415
    The central concern of this article is whether the semantic approach has the resources to appropriately capture the core tenets of structural realism. Chakravartty (2001) has argued that a realist notion of correspondence cannot be accommodated without introducing a linguistic component, which undermines the approach itself. We suggest that this worry can be addressed by an appropriate understanding of the role of language in this context. The real challenge, however, is how to incorporate the c…Read more
  •  14
    Critical Commentaries on Critical Rationalism (review)
    Metascience 16 (2): 271-275. 2007.
  •  194
    Dynamical Systems Theory and Explanatory Indispensability
    Philosophy of Science 84 (5): 892-904. 2017.
    I examine explanations’ realist commitments in relation to dynamical systems theory. First I rebut an ‘explanatory indispensability argument’ for mathematical realism from the explanatory power of phase spaces (Lyon and Colyvan 2007). Then I critically consider a possible way of strengthening the indispensability argument by reference to attractors in dynamical systems theory. The take-home message is that understanding of the modal character of explanations (in dynamical systems theory) can und…Read more
  •  119
    We reassess Woodward’s counterfactual account of explanation in relation to regularity explananda. Woodward presents an account of causal explanation. We argue, by using an explanation of Kleiber’s law to illustrate, that the account can also cover some noncausal explanations. This leads to a tension between the two key aspects of Woodward’s account: the counterfactual aspect and the causal aspect. We explore this tension and make a case for jettisoning the causal aspect as constitutive of expla…Read more
  • M. Leng, Mathematics and reality
    Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 17 (2): 267. 2011.
  •  142
    Form-driven vs. content-driven arguments for realism
    In P. D. Magnus & Jacob Busch (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Science, Palgrave-macmillan. 2010.
    I offer a meta-level analysis of realist arguments for the reliability of ampliative reasoning about the unobservable. We can distinguish form-driven and content-driven arguments for realism: form-driven arguments appeal to the form of inductive inferences, whilst content-driven arguments appeal to their specific content. After regimenting the realism debate in these terms, I will argue that the content-driven arguments are preferable. Along the way I will discuss how my analysis relates to John…Read more
  •  8
    Travelling in New Directions
    In Steven French & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Science, Continuum. pp. 337. 2011.
    This chapter discusses some emerging trends, new directions, and outstanding issues in philosophy of science. The first section places contemporary philosophy of science in context by considering its relationship to analytic philosophy at large, to the history of science, and to science itself. The subsequent sections will then take a look at a selection of interesting trends emerging from current research, and some important issues calling for further work. The presentation is inevitably colour…Read more
  •  52
    The epistemic conception of scientific progress equates progress with accumulation of scientific knowledge. I argue that the epistemic conception fails to fully capture scientific progress: theoretical progress, in particular, can transcend scientific knowledge in important ways. Sometimes theoretical progress can be a matter of new theories ‘latching better onto unobservable reality’ in a way that need not be a matter of new knowledge. Recognising this further dimension of theoretical progress …Read more
  •  34
    Recalling a Habermas-inspired experimental realism (review)
    Metascience 23 (2): 339-341. 2014.
    This is a revised edition of Hans Radder’s Habermas-inspired study of scientific experimentation and realism. The previous English edition (1988) has been out of print since 2004 (The book first appeared in Dutch in 1984). The author (together with the editors of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science) has deemed it worthy of resuscitation. Perhaps it is. There are certainly a number of lasting elements of continuing interest, some of which indeed strike to the heart of the contemporary…Read more
  •  78
    Living in harmony: Nominalism and the explanationist argument for realism
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (1). 2007.
    According to the indispensability argument, scientific realists ought to believe in the existence of mathematical entities, due to their indispensable role in theorising. Arguably the crucial sense of indispensability can be understood in terms of the contribution that mathematics sometimes makes to the super-empirical virtues of a theory. Moreover, the way in which the scientific realist values such virtues, in general, and draws on explanatory virtues, in particular, ought to make the realist …Read more