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Explanatory Pluralism in Paleobiology

Todd A. Grantham
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 66, Supplement. Proceedings of the 1998 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association. Part I: Contributed Papers (Sep., 1999), pp. S223-S236
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188773
Page Count: 14
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Explanatory Pluralism in Paleobiology
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Abstract

This paper is a defense of "explanatory pluralism" (i.e., the view that some events can be correctly explained in two distinct ways). To defend pluralism, I identify two distinct (but compatible) styles of explanation in paleobiology. The first approach ("actual sequence explanation") traces out the particular forces that affect each species. The second approach treats the trend as "passive" or "random" diffusion away from a boundary in morphological space. I argue that while these strategies are distinct, some trends are correctly explained in both ways. Further, since neither strategy can be reduced or eliminated from paleobiology, we should accept that both strategies can provide correct explanations for a single trend.

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