Ontological Order in Scientific Explanation

  • Seungbae Park


A scientific theory is successful, according to Stanford (2000), because it is sufficiently observationally similar to its corresponding true theory. The Ptolemaic theory, for example, is successful because it is sufficiently similar to the Copernican theory at the observational level. The suggestion meets the scientific realists' request to explain the success of science without committing to the (approximate) truth of successful scientific theories. I argue that Stanford's proposal has a conceptual flaw. A conceptually sound explanation, I claim, respects the ontological order between properties. A dependent property is to be explained in terms of its underlying property, not the other way around. The applicability of this point goes well beyond the realm of the debate between scientific realists and antirealists. Any philosophers should keep the point in mind when they attempt to give an explanation of a property in their field whatever it may be.

Philosophical Papers Vol.32(2) 2003: 157-170

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0556-8641