Topological Explanation: A Statement and Defense. Kareem Khalifa (Middlebury College, US) & Daniel Kostic (Université Bordeaux Montaigne & IHPST/Paris 1, FR)

13.12.2019 16:00 - 18:00

NIG, Raum B0305, 3. Stock, Universitätsstr. 7, 1010 Wien

Recent literature on scientific explanation has proposed several
alternatives to causal explanations. Topological explanations have
emerged as among the most interesting and controversial. Some regard
topological explanations as exemplars of noncausal scientific
explanation, for, unlike other candidates for noncausal explanation,
they are neither contrived toy examples nor restricted to a very narrow
range of scientific contexts. However, some are less sanguine about
topological explanations. At first blush, topological explanations
appear to rely on the time-honored scientific strategy of understanding
a system by grasping how its components are related to each other. Since
the best known research programs in this vein are those described by the
“new mechanists,” it is perhaps unsurprising that some proponents of
this school have argued that topological explanations are explanatory
only insofar as they represent mechanisms, frequently highlighting
problems that arise when topological models are decoupled from
mechanisms. Yet, neither the “topologists” nor their new mechanist
critics have offered a sufficiently precise and accurate account of
topological explanations that would satisfactorily settle these debates.
In this paper, we present a novel account of topological explanations,
and show that it has ample resources for rebutting the new mechanists’

Professor Khalifa is professor at the Middlebury College in Vermon
(USA). His research interests include the general philosophy of science,
philosophy of social science, and epistemology. You can visit his
personal website at

The ERC project "Possible Life: The Philosophical Significance of
Extending Biology" kindly invites you to Kareem Kalifa's presentation
of the co-authored work with Daniel Kostic.

For more information contact