Models of Explanation and Problems of the Hypothetical-Deductive Method

Classified in Philosophy and ethics

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Models of Explanation

a) Deductive model
Type of explanation commonly found in the natural sciences and formal sciences, though not exclusively in those disciplines. It has the formal structure of a deductive argument in which the phenomenon that needs to be explained is a logically necessary consequence of the explanatory premises.
b) Probabilistic model
Usually encountered when the explanatory premises contain a statistical assumption about some class of elements. We have to resign ourselves to establishing the factors that have probably motivated or caused this event. This type of explanation is common in human sciences and also in Medicine.
c) Functional or teleological model
We have to resort to the intentions or the purpose for which someone or something carries out an action and the means to achieve it. This type of explanation tries to clarify historical events or human behaviour in general. It can also be used in some natural sciences such as Biology or Physiology.
d) Genetic model
Explanations that try to set out the sequence of major events through which some earlier system has been transformed into a later one. To explain this phenomenon, we must go back to the origin of the phenomenon in question. This type of explanation is common in History, but also in several natural sciences.

Problems of the Hypothetical-Deductive Method

a) The Formulation of Hypotheses
It does not seem unreasonable to assert that in the formulation of hypotheses, some factors come into play that may seem unscientific or completely away from scientific procedure, for example, imagination. The inability to respond to this explanatory gap has caused that some thinkers, such as Paul Feyerabend, have spread the influence of the imagination to the whole scientific procedure. The revolutionary discoveries of modern science were possible thanks to the freedom and spontaneity of the scientists. Moreover, he thought that constraining their activities to a series of steps would transform science into something dogmatic and sterile.
b) The Validation and Confirmation of Hypotheses
The formulation of hypotheses assumes a certain amount of imagination and luck. In order to accept their suggested explanations, the hypotheses have to be checked with the highest scientific rigour.
To solve this problem, Karl Popper proposed falsification as a response to this question and as an alternative to the hypotheses verifying process. Falsification means to test the hypothesis seeking facts in order to show that the hypothesis is false. While no facts are found, the hypothesis is provisionally considered as "true". But when a single opposed event to the hypothesis prediction is discovered, then the hypothesis is falsified and thus it should be rejected. So, Popper assumes that a hypothesis that has been sufficiently proven but not falsified is partially corroborated and it can be provisionally accepted as a scientific law.

Progress and Limits of Science

a) Karl Popper and the Continuous Progress of Science
It cannot be considered true any theory because in the future it could be falsified. Science progresses because each new theory is closer to the "truth". Falsifying a theory is not a bad thing because discovering the weaknesses and problems of our theories helps us to find out a better one. Therefore, we learn from our mistakes, and this ensures continued progress toward truth. Although the absolute truth, in fact, is unachievable.
b) Thomas Kuhn and the Scientific Revolutions
We can realize that falsified theories are often not abandoned and replaced by better ones. Although in the scientific paradigm of a particular moment there are numerous anomalies, they do not necessarily cause us to abandon our theories. The Kuhnian concept of paradigm refers to a system consisting of the theories, terminology, methods, beliefs, instrumental... in which scientific research is developed at a particular time. But Kuhn said that we must not interpret the revolutionary change as a kind of progress since there are no logical reasons to consider a paradigm better than another because they are different and incomparable ways of conceiving reality. In addition, scientists who advocate different paradigms when they look at the same point can see completely different things.

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