Abstract

In this paper I draw on Einstein's distinction between “principle” and “constructive” theories to isolate two levels of physical theory that can be found in both classical and (special) relativistic physics. I then argue that when we focus on theoretical explanations in physics, i.e. explanations of physical laws, the two leading views on explanation, Salmon's “bottom-up” view and Kitcher's “top-down” view, accurately describe theoretical explanations for a given level of theory. I arrive at this conclusion through an analysis of explanations of mass—energy equivalence in special relativity.

Disciplines

Philosophy

Publisher statement

This is an electronic version of an article published in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science.

Included in

Philosophy Commons

Share

COinS
 

URL: http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/phil_fac/14