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Fallacies of Explanation

An explanation is a form of reasoning which attempts to answer the question “why?” For example, it is with an explanation that we answer questions such as, “Why is the sky blue?” Explanation can be based on a scientific theory, on agency, or purpose (teleology). In this case, the explanation of why the sky is blue might begin in terms of the composition of the sky and theories of reflection. Of course, blue, as we commonly refer to it, does not refer to a wavelength of light but to that color we see in our mind’s eye (qualia) when we look at the sky, a blueberry, or iodine. And the phenomenelogical answer to why the sky appears blue to our minds will be of a different sort. If one is open to the idea that the universe was created or designed for a purpose or with intentionality, one might also venture an answer in terms of teological or aesthetics.

Limited Depth

Theories explain phenomena by appealing to some underlying cause or phenomena. Theories which do not appeal to an underlying cause, and instead simply appeal to membership in a category, commit the fallacy of limited depth.

Limited Scope

The theory doesn’t explain anything other than the phenomenon it explains.

Non-Support

The explained phenomenon does not in fact occur, or there is no evidence that it does occur.

Untestability

The theory which explains cannot be tested.