What can polysemy tell us about theories of explanation?

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Philosophical accounts of scientific explanation are broadly divided into ontic and epistemic views. This paper explores the idea that the lexical ambiguity of the verb to explain and its nominalisation supports an ontic conception of explanation. I analyse one argument which challenges this strategy by criticising the claim that explanatory talk is lexically ambiguous, 375–394, 2012). I propose that the linguistic mechanism of transfer of meaning, 109–132, 1995) provides a better account of the lexical alternations that figure in the systematic polysemy of explanatory talk, and evaluate the implications of this proposal for the debate between ontic and epistemic conceptions of scientific explanation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-56
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Early online date30 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

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