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The Art of Social Theory$
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Richard Swedberg

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691155227

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691155227.001.0001

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Coming Up with an Explanation

Coming Up with an Explanation

(p.98) Chapter 5 Coming Up with an Explanation
The Art of Social Theory

Richard Swedberg

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores various ways of coming up with an explanation. These include Charles S. Peirce's notion of abduction, or his theory of how to come up with an explanation from the practical perspective of the scientist. Another is colligation, a term coined by William Whewell which means linking facts together in a new way when one makes a discovery. In Peirce's work, one can also find the term retroduction, a word which reminds that to explain a phenomenon means to look at what comes before the phenomenon. Hypothesis is another term that Peirce used in this context. It emphasizes that an abduction is just a suggestion for an explanation, and that the explanation has to be tested against facts before it can acquire scientific value. Finally, guessing indicates that the scientist does not know how to proceed when he or she is looking for an explanation, but must somehow do so anyway.

Keywords:   explanation, Charles S. Peirce, abduction, colligation, William Whewell, retroduction, hypothesis, guessing

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