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Backwards Explanation

C. S. Jenkins and Daniel Nolan
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Vol. 140, No. 1, Selected Papers from the 2007 Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference (Jul., 2008), pp. 103-115
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27734282
Page Count: 13
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Backwards Explanation
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Abstract

We discuss explanation of an earlier event by a later event, and argue that prima facie cases of backwards event explanation are ubiquitous. Some examples: (1) I am tidying my flat because my brother is coming to visit tomorrow. (2) The scarlet pimpernels are closing because it is about to rain. (3) The volcano is smoking because it is going to erupt soon. We then look at various ways people might attempt to explain away these prima facie cases by arguing that in each case the 'real' explanation is something else. We argue that none of the explaining-away strategies are successful, and so any plausible account of explanation should either make room for backwards explanation, or have a good story to tell about why it doesn't have to.

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