Collaborative explanation, explanatory roles, and scientific explaining in practice

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Scientific explanation is a perennial topic in philosophy of science, but the literature has fragmented into specialized discussions in different scientific disciplines. An increasing attention to scientific practice by philosophers is (in part) responsible for this fragmentation and has put pressure on criteria of adequacy for philosophical accounts of explanation, usually demanding some form of pluralism. This commentary examines the arguments offered by Fagan and Woody with respect to explanation and understanding in scientific practice. I begin by scrutinizing Fagan's concept of collaborative explanation, highlighting its distinctive advantages and expressing concern about several of its assumptions. Then I analyze Woody's attempt to reorient discussions of scientific explanation around functional considerations, elaborating on the wider implications of this methodological recommendation. I conclude with reflections on synergies and tensions that emerge when the two papers are juxtaposed and how these draw attention to critical issues that confront ongoing philosophical analyses of scientific explanation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-94
Number of pages7
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Constitution
  • Explanation
  • Functional analysis
  • Mechanisms
  • Scientific practice


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