Pragmatism and the theory-dependence of explanatory judgments in science.
Many philosophical accounts of scientific explanation purport to be pragmatic. They claim that what counts as a good scientific explanation depends, in a significant way, on the context in which the purported explanation is offered. I start this project by defending a pragmatic approach to analyzing explanations. Bas van Fraassen’s account of explanation is one of the most developed pragmatic accounts of explanation. So, that is what I discuss next. I argue that it survives most of the objections raised against it. I then argue, from the framework provided by van Fraassen’s account, that the acceptance of a theory sometimes involves the acceptance of a set of criteria for evaluating explanations. This set of criteria is theory-laden, and if an explanatory judgment is made on the basis of this set, it is theory-laden. One implication of my thesis is that inference to the best explanation is not a rationally-compelling rule of inference. I defend this claim in the penultimate chapter.