Richard Swinburne: The Existence of God – Brief Notes on Chapter 2 (The Nature of Explanation)

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General Considerations

– Arguments for the existence of God are argumetns to a causal explanation of the phenomena in terms of the intentional action of a person. This type of an explanation is called personal explanation. It is a type of explanatio that we all know and use in other contexts involving personal agents (human beings).

– Discussion on the precise meaning of “to explain something”.

Scientific Explanations

– The classical account of scientific explanation by C. G. Hempel and P. Oppenheim, subsequently championed by Hempel. The so-called deductive-nomological explanation.

– Types of accounts of the laws of nature. Laws of nature either as separate from the objects governed by them, or as constitutive aspects of the entities. (concrete ontological entities vs. substances-powers-and-liabilities).

Personal Explanation

– In addition to scientific explanation, we use personal explanation all the time. The central case of personal explanation is intentional action.

– The concepts of basic action and mediated action.

Personal Explanation Unanalysable in Terms of Scientific Explanation

– The intention of an agent in performing and action is not the same as any brain event that might be connected with it.

– Having an intention is not a passive state of an agent, but just is the agent exercising causal influence.

– Reductionistic theories and objections to them.

Can There Be Two Explanations of a Phenomenon?

– Obviously yes, if both are partial explanations.

– Barring accidental overdegermination, there can be a full scientific explanation and a full personal explanation only if one in part explains the occurrence anf operation of the components of the other, or if there is a further full explanation that explains the causes and reasons operative in both.

Explanation by the Action of God

– The applicability of personal explanation into explanation by the action of God.

– The differences between mundane personal explanation and personal explanation by the action of God (such as God’s incorporeality).


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