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Levels of Explanation Reconceived*

Angela Potochnik
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 77, No. 1 (January 2010), pp. 59-72
DOI: 10.1086/650208
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/650208
Page Count: 14
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Levels of Explanation Reconceived*
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Abstract

A common argument against explanatory reductionism is that higher‐level explanations are sometimes or always preferable because they are more general than reductive explanations. Here I challenge two basic assumptions that are needed for that argument to succeed. It cannot be assumed that higher‐level explanations are more general than their lower‐level alternatives or that higher‐level explanations are general in the right way to be explanatory. I suggest a novel form of pluralism regarding levels of explanation, according to which explanations at different levels are preferable in different circumstances because they offer different types of generality, which are appropriate in different circumstances of explanation.

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