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Keywords:

  • explanatory relata;
  • causal relata;
  • explanation;
  • causation;
  • philosophy of science

Abstract

Explanation is usually taken to be a relation between certain entities. The aim of this paper is to discuss what entities are suitable as explanatory relata of singular causal explanations, i.e., explanations concerning singular causality relating particular events or other appropriate entities. I outline three different positions. The purely causal approach stipulates that the same entities that are related in the singular causal relation are also linked by the explanatory relation. This position, however, has a problem to distinguish between causation and explanation, two distinct relations allegedly obtaining between the same entities. The linguistic approach states that explanatory relata are linguistic entities of some sort, e.g., statements, propositions, etc. There are various versions of this position. I deal with two of them and try to show that they are unsatisfactory because they transform explanation into some other type of relation. On the first version, explanation is very close to interpretation or clarification of intension and on the second version it seems to be indistinguishable from an evidential relation or justification. I consider these transformations in understanding explanation unnecessary, and consequently reject linguistic views of explanatory relata. The most promising proposal concerning explanatory relata seems to be the mixed view, according to which propositions explain events or other fitting extra-linguistic entities.