Why Do Certain States of Affairs Call Out for Explanation? A Critique of Two Horwichian Accounts

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Motivated by examples, many philosophers believe that there is a significant distinction between states of affairs that are striking and therefore call for explanation and states of affairs that are not striking. This idea underlies several influential debates in metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics, normative theory, philosophy of modality, and philosophy of science but is not fully elaborated or explored. This paper aims to address this lack of clear explanation first by clarifying the epistemological issue at hand. Then it introduces an initially attractive account for strikingness that is inspired by the work of Paul Horwich (1982) and adopted by a number of philosophers. The paper identifies two logically distinct accounts that have both been attributed to Horwich and then argues that, when properly interpreted, they can withstand former criticisms. The final two sections present a new set of considerations against both Horwichian accounts that avoid the shortcomings of former critiques. It remains to be seen whether an adequate account of strikingness exists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1405-1419
Number of pages15
JournalPhilosophia (United States)
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Nature B.V.


Whatever merits this paper may have, they are most definitely explainable: Very helpful comments I received from Ron Aboodi, Sharon Berry, David Enoch, Yehuda Gellman, Alan Hájek, Paul Horwich, Ofer Malcai, Neil Manson, Blake McAllister, Eli Pitcovski, Joshua Schechter, Miriam Schoenfield, Orly Shenker and Martin Smith on previous drafts have contributed significantly to improving this paper. I also wish to thank the participants at my presentations at Ben Gurion University’s philosophy department colloquium, the 2016 Eastern Regional Meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers at Rutgers University and at the 2nd Jerusalem-MCMP Workshop on Explanatory Reasoning in the Sciences at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy for very helpful discussions. During the various stages of writing, my work was supported by Ben Gurion University and later by the Center for Moral and Political Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

FundersFunder number
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


    • Arguments from design
    • Benaceraff-field arguments
    • Calling for explanation
    • Fine-tuning arguments
    • Strikingness
    • Surprise


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