An explanation answers a “why” question.
It refers to a Fact or Event to be explained (the explanandum), and offers an account of why it is the case or has happened (the explanans).
The explanans is a causal, mathematical or conceptual Model of the explanandum that shows how it is
- part of a larger Causal Structure,
- an instance of a general Pattern,
- a consequence of System Dynamics, or
- in fact something else that we have already explained, at least in principle (see Deflationary Explanation).
The function of an explanation is to make the explanandum less surprising.
- Gärdenfors (1990): “An Epistemic Analysis of Explanations and Causal Beliefs”
- Lipton (2004): “Inference to the best explanation”
- Lombrozo (2006): “The structure and function of explanations”
- Sprenger & Hartmann (2019): “Bayesian Philosophy of Science”
- van Fraassen (1977): “The Pragmatics of Explanation”