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Studies in the Methodology of Science

Igor Hanzel

The book discusses methodological issues relating to the philosophy of science and the natural and social sciences. It reconstructs the methods of measurement and scientific explanation, the relation of data, phenomena and mechanisms, the problem of theory-ladenness of explanation and the problem of historic explanation. From the sciences chosen for methodological analysis are those of early classical mechanics, early thermodynamics, Bohr’s theory of atom, early quantum mechanics, research into great apes and political economy.
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Chapter 1: Methodological Issues in Scientific Explanation


The aim of this chapter is to offer a concept of scientific explanation which draws on the works of J. Woodward starting from the late 1970s’.1 These works present in many respects an approach to the issue of scientific explanation which should be integrated into any reasonably serious philosophical-cum-methodological reconstruction of scientific explanation.

However, one has to bear in mind that Woodward presented certain aspects of his approach in a rather unspecified manner and, in addition, did not develop certain issues pertaining to scientific explanation with sufficient depth. My aim is to provide a remedy to these deficits.

In order to prevent any possible misunderstanding, I would like to emphasize that this chapter deals neither with Woodward’s view on the counterfactual aspect of explanation, nor with his approach to issues of causation and invariance and their respective places in his reconstruction of scientific laws and explanations.2

I shall start with an overview of Woodward’s approach to scientific explanation, namely, his differentiation between the (f) and (f’) requirements for a valid explanation, his differentiation between the explanation of a law and of a singular phenomenon, and his requirement of a reconstrual of the explanandum in the course of scientific explanation. Then, I shall distinguish between modification conditions stated in scientific laws and singular conditions that are added in the course of scientific explanation to scientific laws from the outside, so to say. This differentiation will, then, enable me to distinguish methodologically between the...

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