Answering Questions Requesting Scientific Explanations for Communication
Article first published online: 17 MAR 2006
Volume 10, Issue 4, pages 379–404, November 2000
How to Cite
Pavitt, C. (2000), Answering Questions Requesting Scientific Explanations for Communication. Communication Theory, 10: 379–404. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2000.tb00199.x
- Issue published online: 17 MAR 2006
- Article first published online: 17 MAR 2006
The term explanation has 2 valid senses: as a discursive activity and as the content of that activity. In the first sense, an explanation is an illocutionary act that provides an answer to an “audience” question about why some phenomenon behaves in a particular way. In the second sense, an explanation is the content of that answer. Although natural language philosophers have proposed some conditions for the discursive act of explaining, their proposals must be combined with some insights provided by scientific realists to distinguish what is specific to scientific, as distinguished from everyday, explanation. There are 2 major types of scientific explanation, causal and functional. An ideal scientific understanding of any communicative phenomenon requires both causal and functional accounts because the 2 work together to provide the types of knowledge that practitioners need to empower themselves and reach their goals as communicators.