Lars-Göran Johansson: "Unification as Explanation"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: - Eng2-1022
  • Organiser: Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University, and Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University
  • Contact person: Lars-Göran Johansson
  • Seminarium

Joint Seminar UU and SU in the Philosophy of Science

Lars-Göran Johansson, Uppsala universitet: "Unification as Explanation"

One idea at improving the DN model of explanation is to say that a scientific explanation is a kind of unification. The seminal paper was Friedman’s Explanation and Scientific Understanding (1974) where he proposed that scientific explanation in the form of unification consists in the reduction of the number of independently acceptable laws in a science. The idea gained traction, although some problems were perceived, but Wesley Salmon (1989) gave what seemed a definite blow to Friedman’s account of unification. However, the idea that explanation is unification was not totally abandoned, the debate has continued with completely different suggestions about possible ways to elaborate the notion of unifying a science. 

My own take on the topic is that Friedman’s original idea, to say that unification is reduction of the number of independently acceptable laws, was on the right track and I will in my talk try develop his idea. Friedman discussion about unification stayed the syntactical level, only using propositional logic. This is too superficial in my view; I will go deeper and consider relations between predicates in a theory. I will also use core results in natural deduction for distinguishing between deductions with and without explanatory value.