Stability, breadth and guidance

Thomas Blanchard, Nadya Vasilyeva, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Much recent work on explanation in the interventionist tradition emphasizes the explanatory value of stable causal generalizations—i.e., causal generalizations that remain true in a wide range of background circumstances. We argue that two separate explanatory virtues are lumped together under the heading of `stability’. We call these two virtues breadth and guidance respectively. In our view, these two virtues are importantly distinct, but this fact is neglected or at least under-appreciated in the literature on stability. We argue that an adequate theory of explanatory goodness should recognize breadth and guidance as distinct virtues, as breadth and guidance track different ideals of explanation, satisfy different cognitive and pragmatic ends, and play different theoretical roles in (for example) helping us understand the explanatory value of mechanisms. Thus keeping track of the distinction between these two forms of stability yields a more accurate and perspicuous picture of the role that stability considerations play in explanation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2263-2283
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


  • Explanation
  • Interventionism
  • Mechanisms
  • Stability


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