Colloquium: Sept 19th

Title: Explanation and Contingency

Speaker: Dr. Paul Hovda (Reed College) 

Friday, Sept 19th at 2:30pm in CLE A203

Abstract: Given that A explains B, does it follow that it is necessarily the case that if A, then B? Is it compatible with A's explaining B, that it be possible that both A and not-B? It is quite common to think that causal explanation of B by A is compatible with the metaphysical possibility that both A and not-B. Such contingency theses seem to be emblematic of "Humean" views of causation. But what happens when we raise contingency questions for non-causal forms of explanation? We examine some recent arguments for the idea that the form of non-causal explanation associated with the notion of metaphysical grounding is compatible with such contingency, and we assess these arguments as inconclusive at best. We conclude that, while it is conceptually coherent, and not unmotivated, to hold that there is some form of contingency in the non-causal sphere(s) of explanation, decisive putative examples of robust forms of contingency are very hard to find, and there is still a good case to be made that there is a central and important type of explanation for which there can be no such contingency.