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Publication Detail
Mechanisms, Models and Laws in Understanding Supernovae
© 2019, The Author(s). There has been a burst of work in the last couple of decades on mechanistic explanation, as an alternative to the traditional covering-law model of scientific explanation. That work makes some interesting claims about mechanistic explanations rendering phenomena ‘intelligible’, but does not develop this idea in great depth. There has also been a growth of interest in giving an account of scientific understanding, as a complement to an account of explanation, specifically addressing a three-place relationship between explanation, world, and the scientific community. The aim of this paper is to use the contextual theory of scientific understanding to build an account of understanding phenomena using mechanistic explanations. This account will be developed and illustrated by examining the mechanisms of supernovae, which will allow synthesis of treatment of the life sciences and social sciences on the one hand, where many accounts of mechanisms were originally developed, and treatment of physics on the other hand, where the contextual theory drew its original inspiration.
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