Postprint version. Published in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume 13, Issue 2, January 1, 1999, pages 123-134.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Francisco Flores was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1080/02698599908573613.
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.
1999 Taylor & Francis.
This is an electronic version of an article published in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science.