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Published March 2003 | public
Journal Article

Explanatory Generalizations, Part I: A Counterfactual Account


[Introduction] The nomothetic conception of explanation, according to which all successful explanations must appeal to laws, has dominated the discussion of scientific explanation in the second half of the twentieth century. The best known formulation of the nomothetic conception of explanation is, of course, Hempel's Deductive-Nomological theory of explanation. While few philosophers today accept the D-N theory of explanation in its original formulation, there is widespread consensus that laws play a central role in explanation, even among prominent critics of the D-N model such as Wesley Salmon (see, e.g., Salmon 1984, p. 262).

Additional Information

© 2003 Blackwell Publishing Inc. Article first published online: 12 Feb. 2003. This paper had its origins in a talk given by Woodward entitled "Explanation and Invariance" at the 1997 Eastern Division Meetings of the American Philosophical Association and the commentary on the talk by Hitchcock. Marc Lange was the other commentator and we are grateful to him for a number of helpful comments and suggestions. We are also grateful to Nancy Cartwright, Malcolm Forster, Alan Hájek, Dan Hausman, Paul Humphreys, and Judea Pearl for helpful discussions. Woodward's contribution to this paper was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (SBR-9320097).

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