Someone (I think GregoryBateson) suggests that people seek two kinds of explanation :
*1) for things which are apparently right, the explanation is that this is the normal way, or some general, atemporal conditions which obtain.
- 2) for things which are apparently wrong, the explanation is a historical chain of causal connections explaining why they varied from the right.
- In my DemarcatingScience I connect type 1 explanations with science, and type 2 with history.
- Interesting, does this almost define normativity? Is it that things which have historical stories are wrong and things with atemporal stories are OK. (Compare OnNormativity, OnFunction)
- There are exceptions. Compare JaredDiamond's GunsGermsAndSteel which gives a historic explanation without suggesting that anything is wrong. (Although I suppose there are many people who consider unequal distribution of wealth and power around the world to be wrong.)
- Stories require conflict. Because narrative (OnNarrative) is a temporal art form, and therefore requires causal chains explaining errors and how they're fixed? (See also TheThreeActPlay, http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2004/04/11.html#a695))
See also :
- AtomismAndHolism are also (higher-order) types of explanations.
- Fascinating story investigating the role of need for explanations in religious belief. : http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge169.html
: psychology experiments reveal that people are often satisfied by empty form. For instance, when experimenters approached people who were standing in line at a photocopy machine and said, "Can I get ahead of you?" the typical answer was no. But when they added to the end of this request the words "because I need to make some copies," the typical answer was yes. The second request used the word "because" and hence sounded like an explanation, and the fact that this explanation told them nothing that they didn't already know was oddly irrelevant.