Explanations, Predictions, and Laws

Originally published in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, edited by Herbert Feigl and Grover Maxwell (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1962), 3: ??? In these two closely‑related articles (see #"Truisms . . ."), Scriven manages to demolish the covering law model of historical explanation. His essential point against Hempel and other CLM supporters is that they confuse explanations with their "grounds" or "justifications." He argues that explanations are "practical, context‑bound affairs" and that they "are merely converted into something else when set out in full deductive array." Just as a joke, when laboriously presented, becomes a "sociological explanation of a joke (and is usually no longer funny)," so "the explanation when dressed in its deductive robes becomes a proof or a justification of an explanation (and usually no longer explains but demonstrates)" ("Truisms," 450). In the "Explanations, . . ." article, Scriven distinguishes usefully between the question of the correctness of an explanation, the question of its adequacy, and the question of its relevance, to which three types of grounds correspond: truth‑justifying grounds, role‑justifying grounds, and type‑justifying grounds (70). Explanation, Scriven stresses, is always explanation for someone; an explanation is "complete" when its intended audience feels satisfied and stops asking further questions (70‑72). (Abstract via Allan Megill)