(1) Explanation, Inference, and Realism.

This is a series of papers tied to the question of scientific realism, which will hopefully lead to a book in the next few years.

Understanding the Success of Science & Reply to Potochnik. In K. Khalifa, I. Lawler & E. Shech, Scientific Understanding and Representation: Modeling in the Physical Sciences, Routledge.


Abstract: This chapter sketches a new defense of scientific realism based on understanding the success of science and then considers what features understanding must have for this defense to succeed. It argues that if scientific realism involves knowledge of unobservables, then the relevant state of understanding some phenomenon must involve grasping that the phenomenon occurs independently of the scientist’s actions or community. The chapter concludes by arguing that both Giere and Potochnik are unable to provide this type of defense of scientific realism.

A Defense of Truth as a Necessary Condition on Scientific Explanation, Erkenntnis 88 (2023): 621-640.


Abstract: How can a reflective scientist put forward an explanation using a model when they are aware that many of the assumptions used to specify that model are false? This paper addresses this challenge by making two substantial assumptions about explanatory practice. First, many of the propositions deployed in the course of explaining have a non-representational function. In particular, a proposition that a scientist uses and also believes to be false, i.e. an “idealization”, typically has some non-representational function in the practice, such as the interpretation of some model or the specification of the target of the explanation. Second, when an agent puts forward an explanation using a model, they usually aim to remain agnostic about various features of the phenomenon being explained. In this sense, explanations are intended to be autonomous from many of the more fundamental features of such systems. I support these two assumptions by showing how they allow one to address a number of recent concerns raised by Bokulich, Potochnik and Rice. In addition, these assumptions lead to a defense of the view that explanations are wholly true that improves on the accounts developed by Craver, Mäki and Strevens.