"The Perils of Confusing Nesting with Chaining in Psychological Explanations"

G. Barker, P. Derr and N.S. Thompson (Behavior and Philosophy 32.2: 293-303), 2004

More Information and Full Text at Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies

Abstract:Despite its diminished importance amongst philosophers, the deductive- nomological framework is still important to contemporary behavioral scientists. Behavioral theorists operating within this framework must be careful to distinguish between nesting and chaining. Explanations are chained when the explanandum sentence of one explanation is one of the antecedent conditions of another. They are nested when one of the antecedent conditions or the explanandum sentence of one explanation is one of the covering laws of another. Confusion between nesting and chaining leads to explanation nests that cannot be nomologically entrenched. They cannot, even in principle, be logically connected to laws arising from other sciences. This hazard should be particularly important for evolutionary psychologists to avoid, since many evolutionary psychologists tend to see themselves as dedicated to both nomological entrenchment and cognitive functionalist models. The hazard can be avoided if the intentional constructs of the behavioral sciences are construed not as ineffable and inaccessible antecedent conditions, but as complex, law-like patterns in behavior.

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