Wesley Salmon’s complementarity thesis: causalism and unificationism reconciled?

H.W. de Regt

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In his later years, Wesley Salmon believed that the two dominant models of scientific explanation (his own causal-mechanical model and the unificationist model) were reconcilable. Salmon envisaged a 'new consensus' about explanation: he suggested that the two models represent two 'complementary' types of explanation, which may 'peacefully coexist' because they illuminate different aspects of scientific understanding. This paper traces the development of Salmon's ideas and presents a critical analysis of his complementarity thesis. Salmon's thesis is rejected on the basis of two objections, and an alternative view of the relation between different types of explanation is proposed. © 2006 Inter-University Foundation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-147
JournalInternational Studies in the Philosophy of Science
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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