Ideas of Wesley Salmon, by Theme

[American, 1925 - 2001, Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.]

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11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 2. Understanding
It is knowing 'why' that gives scientific understanding, not knowing 'that'
Understanding is an extremely vague concept
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 4. Prediction
Correlations can provide predictions, but only causes can give explanations
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 3. Instrumentalism
For the instrumentalists there are no scientific explanations
14. Science / C. Induction / 4. Reason in Induction
Good induction needs 'total evidence' - the absence at the time of any undermining evidence
14. Science / D. Explanation / 1. Explanation / b. Aims of explanation
Scientific explanation is not reducing the unfamiliar to the familiar
Why-questions can seek evidence as well as explanation
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / a. Types of explanation
An explanation is a table of statistical information [Strevens]
The three basic conceptions of scientific explanation are modal, epistemic, and ontic
The 'inferential' conception is that all scientific explanations are arguments
Ontic explanations can be facts, or reports of facts
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / e. Lawlike explanations
We must distinguish true laws because they (unlike accidental generalizations) explain things
Deductive-nomological explanations will predict, and their predictions will explain
A law is not enough for explanation - we need information about what makes a difference
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / g. Causal explanations
Flagpoles explain shadows, and not vice versa, because of temporal ordering
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / i. Explanations by mechanism
Causation produces productive mechanisms; to understand the world, understand these mechanisms
Salmon's interaction mechanisms needn't be regular, or involving any systems [Glennan]
Explanation at the quantum level will probably be by entirely new mechanisms
Does an item have a function the first time it occurs?
Explanations reveal the mechanisms which produce the facts
Salmon's mechanisms are processes and interactions, involving marks, or conserved quantities [Machamer/Darden/Craver]
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / l. Probabilistic explanations
Can events whose probabilities are low be explained?
Statistical explanation needs relevance, not high probability
Think of probabilities in terms of propensities rather than frequencies
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 4. Naturalised causation
A causal interaction is when two processes intersect, and correlated modifications persist afterwards
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 5. Direction of causation
Cause must come first in propagations of causal interactions, but interactions are simultaneous
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
Instead of localised events, I take enduring and extended processes as basic to causation
Salmon says processes rather than events should be basic in a theory of physical causation [Psillos]
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / e. Probabilistic causation
Probabilistic causal concepts are widely used in everyday life and in science