Archives For Melinda Fagan

Author Information: Daniel Little, University of Michigan-Dearborn, delittle@umich.edu

Little, Daniel. 2013. “Disaggregating Historical Explanation: The Move to Social Mechanisms in the Philosophy of History.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (8): 1-7.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-QM

Please refer to:

Melinda Fagan makes two valuable contributions to the debate on the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective surrounding Johannes Persson’s critique of Jon Elster’s account of “explanation by mechanisms” (2012). First, she skillfully demonstrates that Elster’s position tacitly presupposes a monistic approach to explanation: the gold standard of explanation is subsumption under exceptionless regularities. Mechanismic explanations are faut de mieux, to be wheeled out when we have not yet discovered the underlying general laws.[1] This is a venerable approach, extending back to Carl Hempel’s advocacy of the covering law model for all areas of science, including history. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Melinda Fagan, Rice University, SERRC, mbf2@rice.edu

Fagan, Melinda. 2013. “Social mechanisms and explanatory pluralism: Reflections on the Persson-Little-Chuang debate.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (7): 6-11.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-NS

Please refer to:

Persson’s recent critique of Elster’s account of social mechanisms (2012a) has sparked a lively debate (Little 2012a, 2012b; Persson 2012b, 2012c; Chuang 2012).  Concerning this debate, I wish to make two points:

(1)  The debate over social mechanisms overlaps instructively with accounts of explanation and mechanism in philosophy of science and philosophy of biology.

(2)  Both these accounts and responses to Elster support a pluralistic approach to scientific explanation.

I discuss each of these points in turn. Continue Reading…