One puzzle concerning highly idealized models is whether they explain. Some suggest they provide so-called ‘how-possibly explanations’. However, this raises an important question about the nature of how-possibly explanations, namely what distinguishes them from ‘normal’ or how-actually, explanations? I provide an account of how-possibly explanations that clarifies their nature in the context of solving the puzzle of model-based explanation. I argue that the modal notions of actuality and possibility provide the relevant dividing lines between how-possibly and how-actually explanations. Whereas how-possibly explanations establish claims of possible explanations, how-actually explanations establish claims of actual ones. Models, in turn, simply provide evidence for these claims.

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Journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Verreault-Julien, P. (Philippe). (2018). How could models possibly provide how-possibly explanations?. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A. doi:10.1016/j.shpsa.2018.06.008