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Published December 1999 | public
Journal Article

Contrastive Explanation and the Demons of Determinism


It is tempting to think that if an outcome had some probability of not occurring, then we cannot explain why that outcome in fact occurred. Despite this intuition, most philosophers of science have come to admit the possibility of indeterministic explanation. Yet some of them continue to hold that if an outcome was not determined, it cannot be explained why that outcome rather than some other occurred. I argue that this is an untenable compromise: if indeterministic explanation is possible, then indeterministic contrastive explanation is possible too. In order to defend this conclusion, I develop an account of contrastive explanation.

Additional Information

© Oxford University Press 1999. I would like to thank Eric Barnes, John Carroll, Dan Hausman, Paul Humphreys, Peter Lipton, Philip Percival, Larry Temkin, Wes Salmon, Jim Woodward, audience members at the University of California at Los Angeles, and an anonymous referee for discussion and comments.

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