The Need For Explanation
Why are some things, and not others, in need of an explanation? In virtue of what something needs an explanation? In contrast with existent accounts, in particular Grimm (2008) and more recently Wong & Yudell (2015), I introduce a view that acknowledges and capitalizes the role that values play, in both everyday life and scientific inquiry, in the determination of what stands in need of an explanation. I propose that the need for explanation depends not only on the adequacy between facts and maps or theories, but also on the appropriateness of the choice of contrast space, and the choice of the map/theory. In measuring this appropriateness, not only the epistemic values traditionally acknowledged as part of the scientific process play a role (e.g. predictive capacity, simplicity) but also, and importantly, other types of values, like social and moral.
The more the merrier
This is a collaboration with Daniel Wilkenfeld. We argue that there is an inherent tension between two highly laudable goals of the progressive movement. On the one hand, it is important to have a multiplicity of categories for different dimensions of identity (e.g. gender, sexuality). On the other hand, it is also good to have representation of different identities in accessible places that can function as role models. We argue that there is a tension between these two ambitions—the more narrowly we define groups the more feasible it becomes for individuals to find a group in which they fit. However, the more narrowly we define groups, the less feasible it becomes to be able to naturally locate exemplars of those groups in professional and public positions so that they can work as role models.
Why conceptual change? Well, why not?
Ameliorative projects face the need of justification. Why putting forward an enterprise as big as a change in our concepts. I describe some demands of justifications addressed at ameliorative projects and argue that they are not legitimate, unless we are willing to demand similar justification of descriptive projects, and of the very ways in which we advance our knowledge. I build my argument drawing upon the dynamics of science, where conceptual change and unintuitive moves are common and critical for progress. I take Haslanger’s ameliorative project on race and gender (Haslanger, 2000) as an example of the type of conceptual change that Thagard calls tree switching (Thagard, 1992), and argue that her proposal can be seen as a step forward in the historical development of the concepts of race and gender.