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Explanation Beyond CausationPhilosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations$
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Alexander Reutlinger and Juha Saatsi

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198777946

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198777946.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 September 2021

Symmetries and Explanatory Dependencies in Physics

Symmetries and Explanatory Dependencies in Physics

(p.185) 9 Symmetries and Explanatory Dependencies in Physics
Explanation Beyond Causation

Steven French

Juha Saatsi

Oxford University Press

Many important explanations in physics are based on ideas and assumptions about symmetries, but little has been said about the nature of such explanations. This chapter aims to fill this lacuna, arguing that various symmetry explanations can be naturally captured in the spirit of the counterfactual-dependence account of Woodward, liberalized from its causal trappings. From the perspective of this account symmetries explain by providing modal information about an explanatory dependence, by showing how the explanandum would have been different, had the facts about an explanatory symmetry been different. Furthermore, the authors argue that such explanatory dependencies need not be causal.

Keywords:   scientific explanation, non-causal explanation, symmetry explanation, Noether’s theorem, conservation law

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