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The Existence of God 3-4: The Justification of Explanation, Complete Explanation

09/14/2011

Swinburne continues to lay his groundwork in usual incomprehensible fashion. I think it’s important to look at his different explanations:

Kindle Notes:

I now define a complete explanation of the occurrence of E as follows. A complete explanation of the occurrence of E is a full explanation of its occurrence in which all the factors cited are such that there is no explanation (either full or partial) of their existence or operation in terms of factors operative at the time of their existence or operation.

I define an ultimate explanation of E as a complete explanation of E, in which the factors C and R cited are such that their existence and operation have no explanation either full or partial in terms of any other factors. Those factors are ultimate brute facts.

Finally, let us delineate as a special kind of ultimate explanation what I shall call absolute explanation. An absolute explanation of E is an ultimate explanation of E in which the existence and operation of each of the factors cited are either self-explanatory or logically necessary.

So the complete explanation is one where all the factors are self sufficient, and don’t currently have something keeping them in existence. An ultimate explanation is one that never had something make it exist. So if there was a God that existed for an instant, made the laws of physics, which led to the big bang, the laws of physics could be a complete explanation of the big bang. If the laws of physics are brute facts with no explanation at all, than they are an ultimate explanation. If the laws of nature are logically necessary, then they are an absolute explanation.

On the amended Hempelian account the occurrence of a phenomenon E is explained if laws of nature L and other particular phenomena C called the initial conditions physically necessitate (or make more probable) the occurrence of E. A proposed explanation will be a true one if the purported law L that it cites is in fact a law of nature and the cited initial conditions in fact occurred

The simplicity of a theory, in my view, is a matter of it postulating few (logically independent) entities, few properties of entities, few kinds of entities, few kinds of properties, properties more readily observable, few separate laws with few terms relating few variables, the simplest formulation of each law being mathematically simple. A theory of fundamental particles, for example, would be simple to the extent to which it postulates only a few kinds of particle with such properties (for example, mass and electric charge) of which we can observe other instances on the larger scale, whose behaviour is governed by simple mathematical formulae.

I count a property Pas more readily observable than a property Q if one can discover whether or not an object is P without discovering whether of not it is Q but not vice versa

A theory has explanatory power in so far as it entails or makes probable the occurrence of many diverse phenomena that are all observed to occur, and the occurrence of which is not otherwise to be expected.

We shall find that the same criteria of prior probability (determined by simplicity, scope, and fit with background knowledge, if any) and explanatory power are at work in assessing the probability of a hypothesis of personal explanation, a hypothesis that a certain agent produced some effect in virtue of certain beliefs, intentions, and powers.

is in itself no objection to the hypothesis that there is a God, that it does not yield predictions such that we can know only tomorrow, and not today, whether they succeed. The theist’s evidence may render his hypothesis probable without this condition being satisfied.

Note: Does theism not create any falsifiable predictions? If not, does that make it a fake explanation?

The probability, on the evidence, of God’s ex-i P(elk) stence will depend on how well the hypothesis of God’s existence is able to explain the occurrence of phenomena that would otherwise be highly unlikely; and on its prior probability, which (since there will be no background knowledge) means its intrinsic probability, dependent on its scope and its simplicity.

The crucial determinant of the prior probability of theism must be simplicity.

First, there are phenomena that are too odd to be fitted into the established pattern of scientific explanation, and, secondly, there are phenomena that are too big to be fitted into any pattern of scientific explanation.

science explains why some event or state of affairs occurs. It does this, on the Hempelian model, in terms of a prior state of affairs and some natural law. It also explains why certain natural laws operate, and it does this in terms of more fundamental laws of nature-for example, it explains the operation of Galileo’s law in terms of the operation of Newton’s laws. But what, as I shall show more precisely in Chapter 7, science could not explain is why there are any states of affairs at all; it can explain only why, given that there are such states, this state is followed by that state.

I now define a complete explanation of the occurrence of E as follows. A complete explanation of the occurrence of E is a full explanation of its occurrence in which all the factors cited are such that there is no explanation (either full or partial) of their existence or operation in terms of factors operative at the time of their existence or operation.

I define an ultimate explanation of E as a complete explanation of E, in which the factors C and R cited are such that their existence and operation have no explanation either full or partial in terms of any other factors. Those factors are ultimate brute facts.

Finally, let us delineate as a special kind of ultimate explanation what I shall call absolute explanation. An absolute explanation of E is an ultimate explanation of E in which the existence and operation of each of the factors cited are either self-explanatory or logically necessary.

It is the programme of physicalism to effect a reduction of just this kind. The theist who tries to explain why the world is and works as it does is attempting the reverse programme-to give a personal explanation in terms of the action of God, of the existence and operation of the factors involved in scientific explanation.

Note: Supernatural vs. natural

In so far as there is reason to suppose that there is no h that will lead to an increase either of explanatory power or of prior probability, it is probable that (e1 & e3) constitute ultimate brute facts.

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