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a question about Walsh’s “Variance, Invariance and Statistical Explanation”

In Uncategorized on April 7, 2010 by wenwenfan

I have a question about the independence of each domain of scientific explanations.

Walsh argues that there are various distinct, autonomous modes of scientific explanations. How do we understand different domains of explanation? It seems to me that a causal explanation can be statistical or mathematical, but that means that the domains are not independent of each other.

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2 Responses to “a question about Walsh’s “Variance, Invariance and Statistical Explanation””

  1. Hi Wen Wen,

    The two examples that Walsh gives for distinct and autonomous scientific explanations are causal and statistical explanations, along with a footnote indicating a few more possible types of explanations. [Variance, Invariance, and Statistical Explanation, 28]

    While I think you’re right that causal explanation can be statistical or mathematical insofar as they involve statistics and mathematics, Walsh, I think means here to differentiate causal explanations and non-causal statistical explanations. Causal explanations appeal to causal properties while statistical explanations appeal to non-causal statistical properties. So it seems that as he’s using it here, causal explanations which happen to use statistics or mathematics are not necessarily also statistical or mathematical explanations. Nonetheless causal explanations can employ statistics or mathematics as you indicated. On the other hand, I’m not sure if statistical explanations can employ causality at all.

    In any case this is all to show that causal explanations and non-causal statistical explanations are distinct and independent of each other.

  2. Thank you, Leo. Perhaps what I don’t understand is why statistical or mathematical explanations *must* be non-causal. I take Walsh to argue that statistical explanations *can* be non-causal, which seems convincing.

    You said that the causal explanations which happen to use statistical are not *necessarily* statistical, which I agree. But Walsh needs a stronger claim, that causal explanations are *definitely* not statistical. If this claim is not established, then statistical and causal explanations are not independent of each other.

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