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Why Unification Is Neither Necessary Nor Sufficient for Explanation*

Victor Gijsbers
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 74, No. 4 (October 2007), pp. 481-500
DOI: 10.1086/524420
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/524420
Page Count: 20
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Why Unification Is Neither Necessary Nor Sufficient for Explanation*
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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that unification is neither necessary nor sufficient for explanation. Focusing on the versions of the unificationist theory of explanation of Kitcher and of Schurz and Lambert, I establish three theses. First, Kitcher’s criterion of unification is vitiated by the fact that it entails that every proposition can be explained by itself, a flaw that it is unable to overcome. Second, because neither Kitcher’s theory nor that of Schurz and Lambert can solve the problems of asymmetry and accidental generalizations, it follows that unification is not sufficient to ground explanation. Third, some good explanations are disunifying, which entails that unification is not necessary for explanation either.

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