Calling for explanation: the case of the thermodynamic past state

Dan Baras, Orly Shenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Philosophers of physics have long debated whether the Past State of low entropy of our universe calls for explanation. What is meant by “calls for explanation”? In this article we analyze this notion, distinguishing between several possible meanings that may be attached to it. Taking the debate around the Past State as a case study, we show how our analysis of what “calling for explanation” might mean can contribute to clarifying the debate and perhaps to settling it, thus demonstrating the fruitfulness of this analysis. Applying our analysis, we show that two main opponents in this debate, Huw Price and Craig Callender, are, for the most part, talking past each other rather than disagreeing, as they employ different notions of “calling for explanation”. We then proceed to show how answering the different questions that arise out of the different meanings of “calling for explanation” can result in clarifying the problems at hand and thus, hopefully, to solving them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature B.V.


We are grateful to Craig Callender for clarifying his views in correspondence, to several anonymous referees and the editors of this journal for helpful feedback on previous versions and to participants at our presentations at the 21st Meeting of the New Israeli Philosophy Association at Haifa University (2018) and at the Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

FundersFunder number
Buber Society of Fellows
New Israeli Philosophy Association at Haifa University


    • Calling for explanation
    • Craig Callender
    • Huw Price
    • Past hypothesis


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