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Jonathan Waskan
conference paper description
Much of the philosophical discussion of explanations has centered around two broad conceptions of what sorts of ‘things’ explanations are, descriptive and objective. Proponents of each agree upon one thing: Psychology can contribute little to the study of explanations. They attempt to show this by pointing to cases of explanation where the commonly associated phenomenology of explanation (CAPE) (e.g., feelings of insight or understanding) is absent and cases where the CAPE is present without any explanations. All such arguments improperly exploit the ambiguity of ‘explanation’, but they do contain a kernel of truth. The CAPE is, in fact, not constitutive of explanation, not even in the oft-overlooked (third) psychological sense of the term. What appears to be essential is that one finds a happening intelligible. Here I propose a model of the psychological underpinnings of intelligibility and, ultimately, of what explanations are (in the psychological sense). I close by outlining how the psychological study of intelligibility may actually help to reveal the origins of all three concepts of explanation and, in turn, the origins of the judgments about explanation that have in large measure driven philosophical theorizing on the subject.

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