more from Stephen Mumford

Single Idea 14319

[catalogued under 14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / a. Types of explanation]

Full Idea

A nomothetic explanation appeals to laws where the explanandum is shown to be an instance of a general law. ...The alternative is a structural explanation, which postulates a mechanism, opening up a hidden world.


The 'explanandum' is the thing to be explained

Gist of Idea

Nomothetic explanations cite laws, and structural explanations cite mechanisms


Stephen Mumford (Dispositions [1998], 06.4)

Book Reference

Mumford,Stephen: 'Dispositions' [OUP 1998], p.130

A Reaction

[He cites E.McMullin 1978] I am very much in favour of structural explanations, and opposed to nomothetic ones. That is, nomothetic accounts are only the first step towards an explanation - perhaps a mere identification of the explanandum.

Related Idea

Idea 14320 Subatomic particles may terminate explanation, if they lack structure [Mumford]