What can polysemy tell us about theories of explanation?

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  • Maria Serban
Philosophical accounts of scientific explanation are broadly divided into ontic and epistemic views. This paper explores the idea that the lexical ambiguity of the verb to explain and its nominalisation supports an ontic conception of explanation (Salmon 1989; Craver 2007). I analyse one argument which challenges this strategy by criticising the claim that explanatory talk is lexically ambiguous (Wright, European Journal of Philosophy of Science 2(3), 375–394, 2012). I propose that the linguistic mechanism of transfer of meaning (Nunberg, Journal of Semantics 12(2), 109–132, 1995) provides a better account of the lexical alternations that figure in the systematic polysemy of explanatory talk, and evaluate the implications of this proposal for the debate between ontic and epistemic conceptions of scientific explanation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)41-56
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2017

ID: 172263818