Model Explanation Versus Model-Induced Explanation

Insa Lawler (Corresponding author), Emily Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Scientists appeal to models when explaining phenomena. Such explanations are often dubbed model explanations or model-based explanations (short: ME). But what are the precise conditions for ME? Are ME special explanations? In our paper, we first rebut two definitions of ME and specify a more promising one. Based on this analysis, we single out a related conception that is concerned with explanations that are induced from working with a model. We call them ‘model-induced explanations’ (MIE). Second, we study three paradigmatic cases of alleged ME. We argue that all of them are MIE, upon closer examination. Third, we argue that this undermines the building consensus that model explanations are special explanations that, e.g., challenge the factivity of explanation. Instead, it suggests that what is special about models in science is the epistemology behind how models induce explanations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1074
Number of pages26
JournalFoundations of Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Explanation
  • Idealization
  • Model
  • Model-based Explanation


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