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A critical analysis of the thesis of the symmetry between explanation and prediction : including a case study of evolutionary theory Lee, Robert WaiChung
Abstract
One very significant characteristic of Hempel's coveringlaw models of scientific explanation, that is, the deductivenomological model and the inductivestatistical model, is the supposed symmetry between explanation and prediction. In brief, the symmetry thesis asserts that explanation and prediction have the same logical structure; in other words, if an explanation of an. event had been taken account of in time, then it could have served as a basis for predicting the event in question, and vice versa. The present thesis is a critical analysis of the validity of this purported symmetry between explanation and prediction. The substance of the thesis begins with a defence against some common misconceptions of the symmetry thesis, for example, the idea that the symmetry concerns statements but not arguments. Specifically, Grunbaum's interpretation of the symmetry thesis as pertaining to the logical inferability rather than the epistemological symmetry between explanation and prediction is examined. The first subthesis of the symmetry thesis, namely that "Every adequate explanation is a potential prediction," is then analyzed. Purported counterexamples such as evolutionary theory and the paresis case are critically examined and consequently dismissed. Since there are conflicting views regarding the nature of explanation and prediction in evolutionary theory, a case study of the theory is also presented. Next, the second subthesis of the symmetry thesis, namely that "Every adequate prediction is a potential explanation," is discussed. In particular, the barometer case is discharged as a counterexample to the second subthesis when the explanatory power of indicator laws is properly understood. Finally, Salmon's current causalrelevance model of explanation, which claims to be an alternative to Hempel's inductivestatistical model, is critically analyzed. A modified inductivestatistical model of explanation is also proposed. This modified model retains the nomological ingredient of Hempel's original inductivestatistical model, but it is immune to criticisms raised against the latter. In conclusion, I maintain that there is indeed a symmetry between explanation and prediction. But since deductivenomological explanation and prediction are essentially different from inductivestatistical explanation and prediction, the form the symmetry takes between deductivenomological explanation and prediction differs from the form it exhibits between inductivestatistical explanation and prediction.
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Title 
A critical analysis of the thesis of the symmetry between explanation and prediction : including a case study of evolutionary theory

Creator  
Publisher 
University of British Columbia

Date Issued 
1979

Description 
One very significant characteristic of Hempel's coveringlaw models of scientific explanation, that is, the deductivenomological model and the inductivestatistical model, is the supposed symmetry between explanation and prediction. In brief, the symmetry thesis asserts that explanation and prediction have the same logical structure; in other words, if an explanation of an. event had been taken account of in time, then it could have served as a basis for predicting the event in question, and vice versa. The present thesis is a critical analysis of the validity of this purported symmetry between explanation and prediction.
The substance of the thesis begins with a defence against some common misconceptions of the symmetry thesis, for example, the idea that the symmetry concerns statements but not arguments. Specifically, Grunbaum's interpretation of the symmetry thesis as pertaining to the logical inferability rather than the epistemological symmetry between explanation and prediction is examined.
The first subthesis of the symmetry thesis, namely that "Every adequate explanation is a potential prediction," is then analyzed. Purported counterexamples such as evolutionary theory and the paresis case are critically
examined and consequently dismissed. Since there are conflicting views regarding the nature of explanation and prediction in evolutionary theory, a case study of the theory is also presented.
Next, the second subthesis of the symmetry thesis, namely that "Every adequate prediction is a potential explanation," is discussed. In particular, the barometer case is discharged as a counterexample to the second subthesis when the explanatory power of indicator laws is properly understood.
Finally, Salmon's current causalrelevance model of explanation, which claims to be an alternative to Hempel's inductivestatistical model, is critically analyzed. A modified inductivestatistical model of explanation is also proposed. This modified model retains the nomological ingredient of Hempel's original inductivestatistical model, but it is immune to criticisms raised against the latter.
In conclusion, I maintain that there is indeed a symmetry between explanation and prediction. But since deductivenomological explanation and prediction are essentially different from inductivestatistical explanation and prediction, the form the symmetry takes between deductivenomological explanation and prediction differs from the form it exhibits between inductivestatistical explanation and prediction.

Genre  
Type  
Language 
eng

Date Available 
20100326

Provider 
Vancouver : University of British Columbia Library

Rights 
For noncommercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.

DOI 
10.14288/1.0095379

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Degree  
Program  
Affiliation  
Degree Grantor 
University of British Columbia

Campus  
Scholarly Level 
Graduate

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DSpace

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Rights
For noncommercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.