When is Explanation Transitive? A Methodological Note

  • Sam S Rakover
  • Baruch Cahlon
Keywords: methodology, explanation, transitivity


The article considers the following explanatory- transitivity question: assume that A explains B and B explains C: does A also explain C? In the present paper the term explanation signifies causal explanation. The discussion of this question arrives at the answer that a necessary condition for explanatory-transitivity can be proposed. Accordingly, if B explains observation O (bEo) and A explains B (aEb), then A also explains O (aEo), when: if the same E is not preserved in the three expressions (bEo, aEb, aEo) then the transitivity of E will not be preserved. This answer is supported by an analysis of a large number of examples. The article also analyzes the relations among explanation, reduction and transitivity.